The Barnes & Noble Review
Returning to a time and place she knows well, critically acclaimed children's novelist Kimberly Willis Holt sets her latest work in a small southern town during the middle of the 20th century. Dancing in Cadillac Light takes readers inside the heart and mind of Jaynell Lambert, an 11-year-old tomboy with big dreams and an overwhelming desire to drive. Jaynell's life is an ever-changing mix of far-reaching dreams and down-to-earth realities, all of it centered around the complex dynamics of her family.
It's the summer of 1968, and Jaynell is looking forward to the start of school and next year's planned moon landing. But life takes some unexpected turns when Jaynell's grandmother dies and Grandpa comes to live with Jaynell's family, forcing Jaynell to give up her room and share a bed with her prissy sister, Racine. Jaynell copes with it all by dreaming -- about leading a grand life, about her upcoming science project, and about driving. In fact, whenever she's feeling low, Jaynell sneaks into a nearby junkyard, settles in behind the wheel of one of the wrecks, and pretends to drive away from it all.
Concerned about Grandpa's mental acuity, Jaynell's father asks her to watch the old man to see if he does anything crazy. Jaynell follows Grandpa to the cemetery, where she learns the history of all the names on the headstones, and out to Grandpa's house, which now stands deserted. She even goes with him on his regular visits to the Pickenses, a poor family from the wrong side of town. When Grandpa buys himself a 1962 emerald-green Cadillac, it proves to be a life-changing event. Not only does Grandpa let Jaynell drive the car -- for real, not just pretend -- people in town start to treat them differently whenever they drive by. But the real changes, as well as Jaynell's hardest lessons in life, come when Grandpa dies and the true legacy of the Cadillac unfolds.
Holt beautifully captures the essence of life in the late '60s, when Americans were divided by their social consciences and united by a miraculous moment in space. Jaynell learns that one person can make a difference and takes the first steps toward developing her own social conscience as Grandpa's seemingly innocuous acts -- including one startling act of generosity -- teach her some valuable lessons on poverty, class distinction, peer pressure, and social responsibility. (Beth Amos)
Constructed like a series of vignettes, this novel focuses on the relationship between a child and her widower grandfather, whom the family suspects is losing his grip on reality. In PW's words, the novel "captures a child's sense that time stretches endlessly before her." Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
This book will hold interest through its unique set of characters and the conflicts they face. Jaynell's family is so realistic and believable that by the end of the book, they feel like old friends. Jaynell tells us the story as one would tell one's own best friend. The author's heartfelt message also is the most important part of the book. It tells us that sometimes the best way to help ourselves is to help others. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Putnam, 176p, . Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Rosie Servis, Teen Reviewer SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
In this poignant story, eleven-year-old Jaynell, a tomboy who lives with her family in a poor section of Moon, Texas, learns an important lesson about kindness and compassion from her elderly grandfather. After her grandmother dies, her Grandpap has a difficult time living by himself, so he moves in with her Uncle Floyd and Aunt Loveda for a short period of time. After a few incidents, he comes to live with Jaynell and her family. Although she's not thrilled about having to share a room with her ten-year-old sister, she makes the sacrifice because she's so excited to have her grandfather so close by. When her father asks her to keep an eye on their new houseguest, she decides to follow her Grandpap everywhere he goes--on daily walks to the local cemetery, on a boat ride at a nearby lake and on leisurely Saturday drives in a newly purchased Cadillac. While on their special outings, they visit various people around town, and on a few occasions, Jaynell receives driving lessons. After her parents put an end to her Saturday drives, her grandfather goes out on a solo ride and has a heart attack while at the wheel. Unfortunately, he dies and everyone is left heart-broken, especially Jaynell. However, before her grandfather dies, he performs a secret act of generosity that no one in her family knows about--he offers his house and its belongings to the poor, downtrodden Pickens family. When the truth is eventually discovered and a series of dramatic events unfold, Jaynell becomes a heroine and everyone agrees to let the Pickens stay at Grandpap's house. This touching novel focuses on the emotional ups and downs of family life and the importance of intergenerational relationships.
The time is 1968 and the place is Moon, Texas. Eleven-year-old Jaynell Lambert, a tomboy at heart, is full of dreams and boyish playfulness especially as she climbs into abandon cars in Bailey's Automobile Salvage, pretending to drive motionlessly. Life, though, takes on new meaning when her aging grandfather comes to live with them upon the death of their grandmother. Jaynell watches over her saddened grandfather, hiding his depressed, strange behavior, and trying to avoid his going to a nursing home. Instead, Grandpa impulsively purchases a Cadillac, taking Jaynell driving, and even, letting her learn how to drive while her youngest, more girlish sister, Racine, dances in the car's headlights. Sadly, Grandpa dies of a heart attack while driving, leaving Jaynell and her family to adjust to still another loss, and to cope with Grandpa's quirky past and the financial security that he has provided for them including real dancing lessons for Racine. Younger readers will enjoy this sensitive story of life in a rural Southern town which manages to teach "true values" without being preachy. Genre: Coming-of-Age/Death and Dying. 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 167 pp., $15.99. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Edna Earl Edwards; Oxford, Mississippi
Mary Russell and husband Sherlock Holmes in their sixth outing. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-Who will be the Seventh Duke of Beauville, and heir to the breathtaking Justice Hall? Certainly not Maurice Hughenfort, the current heir, if he has his druthers. When Sherlock Holmes and his wife Mary Russell first met Marsh, they knew him as Mahmoud Hazr; he and his cousin Ali were guides and spies in Palestine in O Jerusalem (Bantam, 2000). Now they discover that he is the heir to a dukedom he finds an encumbrance to his chosen profession and also, as a result of this succession, a target for murder. His cousin Ali, now Alistair, comes to Holmes and Russell to help Marsh find the answers to several questions involving other possible heirs. Thoroughly captivated by the glories of Justice Hall and bemused by the 1920s' social whirl created by Marsh's sister and her husband, present caretakers of the Hall, Mary sets out to find some answers while Holmes goes off to London to sleuth and consult his brother Mycroft. Trench warfare and shooting parties as well as ocean voyages and Canadian flyers all fit together to help solve the puzzle, and teens will see much of another world and time while following this tricky tale of missing heirs and murder. There is less of Holmes and more of Mary in this sixth adventure, and a charming new character in Iris, Marsh's wife in a marriage of mutual convenience.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Returning in autumn 1923 to Baker Street from their adventures in The Moor (1997), Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Oxford theologian Mary Russell, find a whopping surprise waiting for them: Ali Hazr, the Bedouin spy of O Jerusalem (1999), is actually English aristocrat Alistair Hughenfort, and his cousin Mahmoud, a.k.a. Marsh, is the seventh Duke of Beauville. But aging, weary Marsh is an unwilling Duke who wants nothing more than to return to Palestine after turning the fabulous estate (much Anglophilic drooling here) over to the heir presumptive-assuming his credentials check out. The problem with the heir apparent, nine-year-old Thomas Hughenfort of Paris, is that it's hard to understand why Thomas's father Lionel, who died of pneumonia soon after his son's birth in 1914, would have taken up with a woman older and plainer and commoner in every way than himself, especially since Lionel was notoriously partial to non-paternal relationships with young boys. Following Ali-oops, Alistair-to Justice Hall, Holmes and Russell aren't in time to prevent an untimely shooting accident, but with the help of endless interviews, family trees, and revelations of birthright, they do straighten out the Hughenfort line, and solve a particularly vicious murder to boot. Holmes is muffled, but the mystery, after a sluggish, implausible start, broadens and deepens as the tension rises until all WWI seems to come under indictment. The least successful of King's six Holmes pastiches is also the most accomplished-if you don't mind seeing the master detective sidelined.