At the center of Madden's (Offsides, for adults) tender novel (her first for children) about a poor and loving family in the mountains of 1960s North Carolina, is 11-year old "Livy Two." The third and perhaps most spirited of the children, Livy Two, who narrates, is charged with taking care of her three-year-old blind sister, Gentle. The first Olivia died at birth and Livy Two often prays to her for solace. Her older brother, Emmett, is feeling tension with his father, Tom, and is getting restless to move on. Meanwhile Tom hopes to make it by selling a hit song in Nashville and her mother, Jessie, works to keep the family of 10 fed and clothed. Livy Two replays all the sweet and sad moments of family life on the guitar with her own songs, such as when she overhears one of her sisters quietly describing color to Gentle: "Eat this blueberry and you'll understand the color blue." Just when things start to look up-Tom lands a job on a local TV show, and he and Livy Two plan to perform at a local concert-tragedy hits and the family digs even deeper for the grace and strength to heal differences and go on. Along with an assortment of affecting family members-particularly Grandma Horace with her collection of glass eyes, and Uncle Hazard the dog-Livy Two will burrow deeply into the hearts of young readers. Ages 9-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Twelve-year-old Livy Two Weems lives in a holler in the 1960's in the North Carolina mountains. She is named for another Livy, a baby that her mother lost in infancy and so Livy Two feels connected to her family's past. The present is difficult. Her mother is continually pregnant (now with her ninth), her father is just as continually short of money and it seems as if his musical talents will never be discovered, and her bossy, sometimes cruel grandmother is trying to take over their lives. Livy's talented, too, and dreams of getting beyond the mountains to a larger world. That seems farther and farther into the future as she cares for her family and finds comfort in them, especially Gentle, a sweet blind three-year-old who needs her. The book is strong in mountain voice, family warmth, and well-rounded characters. 2005, Viking, Ages 10 to 12.
Gr 6-8-The 1960's and the Great Smoky Mountains come to life in this tale of family and friendship by Kerry Madden (Viking, 2005). Eleven-year-old Livy Two (named for her dead sister Olivia) lives in Maggie Valley, NC, with seven brothers and sisters. Life is hard and Livy often goes to bed hungry for food but full of love from her practical Mama and her dreamer of a Daddy. Livy spends the summer climbing trees, writing songs in her head, and walking miles to the visiting bookmobile. She longs to see the world, and is furious when her brother trades the family for a job in town and a full stomach every night. To make matters worse, her cranky grandmother comes to visit and her baby sister, Gentle, is blind. When her father is in a coma after an accident, Livy discovers how a loving family can pull together and thrive. The performance of narrator Kate Forbes is flawless. She beautifully interprets Livy's voice and the delivery is as gentle and warm as a summer breeze. Move over, John-Boy Walton-the author has plans for two more books set in Maggie Valley.-Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In her debut for young readers, Madden creates a warmhearted, compelling family drama about the Weems, circa early 1960s. They grow up poor in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, move often and settle in Maggie Valley, a "holler" filled with honeysuckle and wildflowers. Told from the keen-eyed point of view of 11-year-old Livy Two, one of nine children (the tenth, Livy One, died at birth), the story is layered with details of their mountain life, their struggles, crises and day-to-day moments of joy: "I get my songwriting from Daddy, who plans on selling a banjo hit any day now, so we can eat regular." And there's humor too. Livy Two is a dreamer, a reader, songwriter/guitar player; she has "an itch in [her] bones to visit exotic lands," and when it comes to her family, especially her three-year-old sister Gentle, who is diagnosed as blind, she's a resourceful and generous problem-solver. Though some of the plot elements strain credibility, the graceful, spirited and, above all, sensory richness of the writing make this work stand out. (Fiction. 9-12)