Down Sand Mountain

Down Sand Mountain

by Steve Watkins
5.0 5

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Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins

It's 1966 and Dewey Turner is determined to start the school year right. No more being the brunt of every joke. No more "Deweyitis." But after he stains his face with shoe polish trying to mimic the popular Shoeshine Boy at the minstrel show, he begins seventh grade on an even lower rung, earning the nickname Sambo and being barred from the "whites only" bathroom. The only person willing to talk to him, besides his older brother, Wayne, is fellow outsider Darla Turkel, who wears her hair like Shirley Temple and sings and dances like her, too. Through their friendship, Dewey gains awareness of issues bigger than himself and bigger than his small town of Sand Mountain: issues like race and segregation, the reality of the Vietnam War, abuse, sexuality, and even death and grieving. Written in a riveting, authentic voice, at times light-hearted and humorous and at others devastating and lonely, this deeply affecting story will stay with readers long after the book is closed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763654313
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 03/22/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Lexile: NC1200L (what's this?)
File size: 987 KB

About the Author

Steve Watkins, an associate professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, is a short-story writer and winner of a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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Down Sand Mountain 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
NewsmanFL More than 1 year ago
Steve Watkins sensitively re-creates the claustrophobia and emotional complexity of being 12. You begin to notice your parents' flaws. You come to share (without much real understanding) the anxiety of global events, see how pain and dysfunction thread through your family and your friends', judge societal injustices such as racism, wade through the bafflement of sexuality, parse grownup situations with a limited vocabulary. You have eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but as will be your fate, can't always judge which is which, because sometimes lying is right and usually it's some of both.

Because this book is set in the 1960s, it is like a reassuring letter from parent to child. The particular issues and struggles have evolved, but the central feelings of the age are eternal. Just like Dewey's parents in their finer moments in the book, this sensitive tone extends a hand of comfort to the foreheads of Watkins' young readers (and reminds parents to slow down and pay attention for chances to do the same). Indeed, you sense Watkins' parenting experiences inform the story as much as his memories of being Dewey's age.

DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN is an intense, immersive, sad, hilarious and aching adventure. It captures the jungle social structure of high school, with predators and prey, where natural selection has cast the die for the Darwin Turkels of the world -- and maybe for us as the narrator, Dewey, too. The story elevates these universal teenage struggles to literal life-and-death -- just as they feel when you're living them. I closed the back cover marvelling that I survived.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, i Twelve and i liked it! I dont know what these big ol' honkin long reviews are for! I read this as an actual book, and i thought it was G-R-E-A-T GREAT!! Its a suitable book for all ages. But there are some parts that aren't appropriate for ages twelve or under...
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
It's 1966 and there is still a lot of racial tension and discrimination in this small Florida town. The Vietnam war is in high gear, and Dewey Turner has many personal issues to deal with.

Dewey desperately wants to be the "Shoeshine Boy" in next year's minstrel show at school, but dying his face with black shoe polish turns out to be the wrong thing to do because it won't wash off. The kids start calling him Sambo, and then the bullies won't let him use the bathroom that they have labeled "Whites Only," and continue to do so long after the shoe polish wears off.

He is ostracized by his classmates, picked on by bullies, and his father deals out discipline with his belt.

Dewey's brother, Wayne, is the only person willing to talk to him besides another outsider, Darla Turkel. Darla is a bouncy, Shirley Temple look-alike who befriends Dewey.

His problems escalate when his dad sends him and Wayne into Boogerbottom, the black section of town, to deliver campaign posters - and they run into more trouble than they can handle.

DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN is an authentic look back in history, and a riveting chronicle of the emotional issues of being a teenager. It does introduce some sexual complications in a couple of scenes that I thought should have been omitted - the story is great without those problems.

Overall, though, this is a fast-paced story filled with the emotional roller-coaster of teen angst. The characters are realistic and compelling. It is a complex story that is by turns funny, sad, lonely, and sometimes frightening, but one thing is for sure: it will stay with you long after the last page is finished.