Political intrigue meets small-town New Hampshire in this story of identity, perseverance and love. Cooper Jewett works hard on the dairy farm where he lives with his grandfather. But it's the only life he knows and a life he loves. When his beloved grandfather dies, leaving him alone, Cooper intends to keep the farm running, remembering his grandfather's phrase of fondness for him, "You're my first boy, Cooper, my first boy." But keeping up with school, milking, chores and cross country practice is running Cooper ragged. And when a local senator comes campaigning through town, along with the U.S. President, a mystery begins to unfold, and it turns out that "first boy" may have more than one meaning. Burns has a youthful-sounding voice and an enthusiastic approach, but he takes a while to get the pacing of his performance right, ultimately overcoming a slow, halting read and easing into a rhythm with dialogue. Schmidt's tale has its share of contrivances and quirky characters, but the compelling premise and Cooper's genuine dedication to farming-and to the people who love him-will help listeners stick around. Ages 12-up.(Nov. 2005) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
After his grandfather's death, 14-year-old Cooper Jewett was determined to run their New Hampshire dairy farm on his own, but others seemed to have different ideas. First there was Senator Wickham, wanting the boy to join his campaign against the sitting President, traveling across the country to show how Wickham supported small farmers. His techniques are not subtle: the electric fence is cut, the small barn burns down, and his house is ransacked. A neighbor is roughed up. And then there was the President herself, and the First Gentleman, who suggested that he take time off and hide in a fishing cabin in New Brunswick, far away from Wickham and his accusations that Jewett is really the President's illegitimate son. Luckily Jewett has the love and support of his neighbors, especially Mr. Searle who pitches in with the milking and Mrs. Perley who keeps him fed and the house in order. The action of this thriller is fast-paced, but grounded in rural New Hampshire with plenty of sensory detail about the farm world and clear descriptions of the hard physical labor of farm life. Stressing Jewett's determination and the down-to-earth helpfulness of neighbors who love him just as his grandparents did, Schmidt has created engaging characters, solid New England farmers. The mystery of Jewett's parentage is never resolved, but his place on his dairy farm is secure. Overall, this is a suspenseful, often funny, and very satisfying story of the triumph of common folk over the powerful. 2005, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 10 to 14.
Award-winning author Gary Schmidt packs a political punch in
First Boy. Is 14-year-old Cooper Jewett the abandoned son of the first woman president of the United States? And if so, how did he end up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire? Cooper, an endearing "Everyteen" kind of guy, finds himself battling pundits, politicos and scary guys in black sedans in an action-packed search for the truth. By turns funny and poignant, this novel explores the nature of family, the ties of community and the pleasures of rural life in ways sure to provoke thought here in our ultra-political, ultra-urban nation's capital. And check out the author's dedication in which Schmidt connects each of his six children to a certain part of the book. Such an act, though perhaps unrelated to the (high) quality of the writing, struck me as both fair and charming.
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Fourteen-year-old Cooper Jewett is lonely and exhausted. Since the death of his grandfather, Cooper has been running the Jewett dairy farm alone, with just a bit of help from a few of his rural New Hampshire neighbors. As if going to school and managing a household and farm were not enough, Cooper finds himself drawn into a political intrigue when a mysterious black limousine begins following him through town and along quiet country roads. Disturbing acts of vandalism occur on the farm, and tension mounts until Cooper is finally compelled to meet the famous couple who just might be his biological parents, as well as their opponent, a powerful, corrupt U.S. senator who hopes that Cooper will be his ticket to the highest office in the land. The novel is well paced, building gradually from a low-key opening and the introduction of an ordinary-seeming protagonist, toward a suspenseful conclusion in which Cooper's moral strength and his solidarity with friends and neighbors is severely tested. Schmidt is the author of many young adult biographies and novels, including Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Clarion, 2004/VOYA August 2004), awarded both Newbery and Printz honors for 2005. Here in a contemporary setting in which a woman is the U.S. president, he places the traditional values of plain country folk in stark contrast with the worldly ambitions of politicians and their cronies. It is a timely novel of coming-of-age into a society increasingly divided along cultural lines. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Henry Holt, 197p., Ages11 to 15.
Fourteen-year-old Cooper lives happily with his grandfather on a dairy farm in New Hampshire, but when his grandfather dies and suspicious black sedans keep showing up in their small community, his life takes an unexpected turn. Cooper had always wondered about his parents; he doesn't even have a picture of them. Now a senator and even the US President are seeking him out, and his house is searched and his barn burned down. The politicians are trying to use him for their own purposes: is he really the president's illegitimate son? With the help of two good-hearted if tart-tongued neighbors, Cooper must stand up for himself in order to keep the farm and the life he loves. This lyrical novel by the author of
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a Newbery Award winner and Printz Honor book, is set in the present day, but it has a sweetly old-fashioned quality to it. Some aspects of the plot stretch credulity, but Cooper is an admirable hero and YAs will certainly empathize with his desire to do things his way and with his rejection of those people who simply want to make use of him. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Henry Holt, 208p., Ages 12 to 18. Paula Rohrlick
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2005: Fourteen-year-old Cooper lives happily with his grandfather on a dairy farm in New Hampshire, but when his grandfather dies and suspicious black sedans keep showing up in their small community, his life takes an unexpected turn. Cooper had always wondered about his parents; he doesn't even have a picture of them. Now a senator and even the US President are seeking him out, and his house is searched and his barn burned down. The politicians are trying to use him for their own purposes: is he really the president's illegitimate son? With the help of two good-hearted if tart-tongued neighbors, Cooper must stand up for himself in order to keep the farm and the life he loves. This lyrical novel by the author of
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a Newbery Award winner and Printz Honor book, is set in the present day, but it has a sweetly old-fashioned quality to it. Some aspects of the plot stretch credulity, but Cooper is an admirable hero and YAs will certainly empathize with his desire to do things his way and with his rejection of those people who simply want to make use of him. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: Paula Rohrlick (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Gr 5-8-While not as richly layered as Schmidt's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Clarion, 2004), this novel touches on similar themes. When Cooper Jewett's beloved grandfather, whose endearment for the 14-year-old is, "You're my first boy," dies suddenly, the teen finds himself completely alone. He's never even seen a picture of his parents. Cooper is determined to stay on the New Hampshire dairy farm that he loves, although school, cross-country practice, and endless chores make that decision nearly impossible. The Big Men in black sedans who begin to follow him, ransacking the farm and setting fire to a barn, set off a series of events that ends with him being kidnapped and meeting the president. Senator Wickham, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, wishing to smear the incumbent, uncovers a scandal and believes that the President and the First Gentleman (yes, that's right: a woman president and a nice touch) are the boy's parents. However, since the president refuses to take a DNA test, readers are never certain whether or not Cooper is indeed the First Boy. He just wants to be home with his friends who love him and, in the end, he is able to stay. Cooper's grief, solitude, and loneliness are poignantly and realistically drawn, and secondary characters add humor to this fast-paced tale. At times, but not nearly as often as in Lizzie Bright, the writing reaches the lyricism so compelling in that novel. Like Turner in that book, Cooper learns how memories keep loved ones alive.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Sinister black sedans clash with rolling farmland as D.C. invades rural New Hampshire in Schmidt's latest foray into dirty politics. Fourteen-year-old Cooper Jewett is a dairyman through and through, so when Grandpa, his last remaining relative, dies, he stoically vows to "make do." Little does he know that his challenges will soon exceed fighting loneliness, keeping up in school and running the farm solo-indeed, that life as he knows it will be jeopardized when the cold, calculating Senator Wickham decides to use the orphaned Cooper as a tool in his bid for the presidential nomination. (Grandpa always said Wickham "should hold a pile of manure in each hand while he talked so people could plainly see what was coming out of his mouth.") Cooper, once "clutched by the stillness of his house," is soon catapulted into a full-blown action adventure complete with dangerous thugs, stolen cars and narrow escapes. In this suspenseful, surprisingly over-the-top novel, Cooper finds out who he is and what he's made of through a dizzying series of unlikely events that show him, ultimately, that love conquers all. (Fiction. 12+)