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Preacher's Boy
     

Preacher's Boy

5.0 2
by Katherine Paterson
 

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It's 1899 in a small town in Vermont, and the turn of the century is coming fast. According to certain members of the church where Robbie's father is the preacher, the end of the century might even mean the end of the world. But Robbie has more pressing worries. He's sure his father loves his simple-minded brother, Elliot, better than him, and he can no longer

Overview

It's 1899 in a small town in Vermont, and the turn of the century is coming fast. According to certain members of the church where Robbie's father is the preacher, the end of the century might even mean the end of the world. But Robbie has more pressing worries. He's sure his father loves his simple-minded brother, Elliot, better than him, and he can no longer endure the tiresome restrictions of Christianity. He decides to leave the fold and decides to live life to the fullest. His high-spirited and often hot-headed behavior does nothing to improve his father's opinion of him, nor does it improve the congregation's flagging opinion of his father. Not until the consequences of his actions hurt others does Robbie put a stop to the chain of events he has set off and begin to realize his father might love him after all.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"At every turn, Paterson splendidly balances Robbie's moral choices with pure entertainment, especially as it twists the plot. As the public demands more books with moral issues at their core, here's one that envelops readers with its principled reflections, instead of pounding them over their heads."—Booklist

"Nourishing for mind and spirit both."—Kirkus Reviews

"Paterson tells a multilayered coming-of-age story of loyalty, courage, and the enduring values of family. With warmth, humor, and her powerful yet plain style, Paterson draws empathetic and memorable characters. Readers share the anticipation and the joy of Robbie and his father as they welcome the 20th century at the book's end." School Library Journal, starred review

"Paterson captures the essence of an adolescent's fundamental questions of God and existence in this finely honed novel. . . . Once again placing universal conflict in a historical context, Paterson gives a compassionate, absorbing rendering of an adolescent boy trying to break free from social and religious constraints." Publishers Weekly, starred review
 
 

Horn Book
A narrative that shuttles skillfully between sentiment and farce, thatcombines moments of painful insight with uproarious action. Robbie Hewittemerges as one of Katherine Paterson's most engaging characters.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia; Jacob Have I Loved) captures the essence of an adolescent's fundamental questions of God and existence in this finely honed novel. As the year 1899 draws to a close, the people in Robbie's rural Vermont community anticipate the coming of the 20th century with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Some fear that the end is near. Others, like Robbie's father, a minister with progressive ideas, thinks "the world's at a sort of beginning." Robbie does not know what to believe. Recently, he has begun to question God and the validity of the Ten Commandments. As the son of a preacher, he is expected to exhibit exemplary behavior, but he cannot seem to turn the other cheek to those who make fun of his "simple-minded" brother. In a fit of anger, Robbie comes dangerously close to drowning a boy and sets off a chain of irreversible events; he must rely on his conscience to lead him toward redemption. Once again placing universal conflict in a historical context, Paterson gives a compassionate, absorbing rendering of an adolescent boy trying to break free from social and religious constraints. Besides delving into the mind of the young rebel, she successfully evokes the climate of the times, showing how the townspeople respond to modern inventions, discoveries and ideas. The story contains a moral, but the author remains nearly invisible as she guides her characters through crises, then leaves them to fend for themselves at the dawn of a new era. Ages 10-14. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Dr. Judy Rowen
Robbie Hewitt is the son of the Congregational minister in a small Vermont town right before the turn of the century. A spirited child, he often gets into scrapes that lead the townspeople to shake their heads, especially since he is the preacher's boy. Robbie's faith in his father and in God are both shaken after a near disaster. While hiding out, he gets into the biggest scrape of his life and finally is forced to chose whether to tell the truth or keep on hiding. A well told tale that provides a glimpse into life in 1899.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Paterson, so adept at capturing a sense of time and place, returns once again to mine the richness of small-town Vermont during the 19th century. Here, she reflects on the approach of the previous century as she follows the adventures of energetic, mischievous Robbie Hewitt, a preacher's son with a bit of a temper, from Decoration Day in May, 1899, to the eve of January 1, 1900. New ideas are circulating. Darwin's theory of evolution gets confused in Robbie's mind with atheism. When he decides that it is too hard to behave, that God is too hard to please, and that the world may end soon anyway, he declares himself an "apeist." Following a fight with his nemesis, he becomes involved with Violet, a poor homeless girl, and her alcoholic father, Zeb. While planning his own kidnapping for profit, he implicates Zeb, who is likely to hang for the crime. Robbie's own personal miracle from God, a ride in a motorcar, reaffirms him as a true believer. As in Jip (Dutton, 1996), Paterson tells a multilayered coming-of-age story of loyalty, courage, and the enduring values of family. With warmth, humor, and her powerful yet plain style, Paterson draws empathetic and memorable characters. Readers share the anticipation and the joy of Robbie and his father as they welcome the 20th century at the book's end.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Paterson (Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, 1998, etc.) rings out the 20th century with this ruminative tale of a 10-year-old freethinker, set in a small Vermont town at the very end of the 19th century. Hearing a revivalist preacher's dark hints of impending doom, Robbie decides to become "a heathen, a Unitarian, or a Democrat, whichever was most fun," because he "ain't got the knack for holiness." As it turns out, he's not very good at sinning either, bending a few commandments by stealing food for a pair of vagrants, Violet and her abusive, alcoholic pa, Zeb, and feeling a stab of envy over the love his parents lavish on his simple-minded older brother, Elliot. He has a brush with serious evil, nearly drowning a rival who throws his clothes into a pond; the experience leaves him profoundly shocked at himself, and he ultimately earns redemption, in his own eyes, by saving Zeb from a charge of attempted murder. Despite some violence, the tone is generally light; if some situations are contrived, more thoughtful readers will look beyond them to the larger moral questions underlying Robbie's attitudes and choices. Talky, but nourishing for mind and spirit both. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780544104907
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/22/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
681,605
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

How the Trouble Began

On Decoration Day, while everyone else in town was at the cemetery decorating the graves of our Glorious War Dead, Willie Beaner and me, Robert Burns Hewitt, took Mabel Cramm's bloomers and run them up the flagpole in front of the town hall. That was the beginning of all my troubles.

It wasn't that we got caught. In fact, I've often thought since that would have been the best thing in the world. If we'd been caught, Pa, who is a preacher and therefore has to be in favor of repentance, would have made us both apologize to Mabel, brought me home, and given me a good hiding--or as good a hiding as Pa can manage. He never can put his heart into corporal punishment--a weakness often lamented by Deacon Slaughter. In the rest of the town there would have been a few days' worth of people cutting their eyes sidewise at us, but in a couple of weeks--say, by the middle of June--the whole affair would've been forgotten.

As it was, by the middle of June the boys--well, they act like boys even if they are the size of men--the boys that hang around the livery stable were still speculating as to who had had the nerve to do it “in broad daylight, mind you!” and then slapping their knees and snorting like horses.

I still think Mabel herself is due part of the blame. Everyone returned from the cemetery that morning to discover a foreign object streaming just below Old Glory. It was quickly evident that the object fluttering in the spring breeze was a pair of female unmentionables, so Deacon Slaughter and Mr. Weston (being the leading citizens) conferred and decided the said unmentionables should be loweredand handed over to the sheriff for decent disposal. But when those bloomers got to eye level, Mabel Cramm had no more sense than to shriek out like a banshee, “They're mine!” Whereupon she fainted dead away. From that moment, Chaos took charge and Rumor reigned.

And it wasn't just those loafers at the stable; the whole goldurn town was aflutter. Mothers were keeping their daughters indoors, except for Mabel's mother, who had bundled her off on the afternoon train that very day to visit her grandmother in Waterbury until she recovered her equilibrium or the culprit was found and punished, whichever came first.

With all the fuss, there was no way Willie and me could confess. If we'd been caught, which by all rights we should have been, we'd've been tanned and sent to bed without our supper, and the whole thing dismissed as a schoolboy prank.

Which it was. I swear. We were just trying to keep up with Tom and Ned Weston.Two weeks before, the Weston boys had put a green snake into Teacher's lunch pail. It made a lovely to-do. All those girls screaming and putting their hands over their eyes and jumping up on their desks. Miss Bigelow didn't scream, but you could tell she wanted to and was barely keeping herself in line. You could see in her eyes the war between screaming and staying calm so she could quiet those hysterical girls.

Funny thing about that. It was only the older town girls. The farm girls and the little girls didn't scream at all. To tell the truth, they were just as interested in studying the varmint as the boys. It was only the girls practicing to be young ladies who went berserk and threatened to expire. I'll never understand women. No, it's not the whole kit 'n' kaboodle of the ladylike female race. Nobody beats my ma in the ladylike department, and she never once in my lifetime went silly over a snake or a mouse either. We have plenty of mice running through that rattletrap manse where we live. Ma just gets a broom and chases them back to their holes.

But I'm getting off the subject. Tom and Ned never got caught. Only Willie and me saw the whole thing, and we aren't squealers. Tom and Ned were well aware of this. It made them act even more superior to us than usual, which me and Willie could not tolerate. So we figured that the only thing we could do is think up something even more outrageous and get away with it. Only we'd be smarter than them. We'd not even let Tom and Ned see us. Then they wouldn't know for sure we'd done it. They'd just go crazy wondering over it.

See, if they knew for sure, then they'd have to think up something even worse and not let anybody but us know. And then Willie and me would be obliged to think up something still worse, and so on and so on until we were all four dead or too old to care, one or the other.

“Now, the hardest part,” I explained to Willie, “is that we can't brag. Not by the flicker of the eyebrow, you understand?”

“No,” he said. “How do you flicker an eyebrow?”

“It's a manner of speaking,” I said, prim as a schoolmarm.

“Wal, why would I want to brag anyway?”

“You wouldn't, normally. But the thing is--human nature being what it is--we're going to be fair busting with the desire to hint to the Weston boys that we were the ones who pulled this off.”

The actual crime was easy to commit. On Monday, the twenty-ninth of May, which was the day before Decoration Day, we watched...

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"At every turn, Paterson splendidly balances Robbie's moral choices with pure entertainment, especially as it twists the plot. As the public demands more books with moral issues at their core, here's one that envelops readers with its principled reflections, instead of pounding them over their heads."—Booklist
"Nourishing for mind and spirit both."—Kirkus Reviews

"Paterson tells a multilayered coming-of-age story of loyalty, courage, and the enduring values of family. With warmth, humor, and her powerful yet plain style, Paterson draws empathetic and memorable characters. Readers share the anticipation and the joy of Robbie and his father as they welcome the 20th century at the book's end." School Library Journal, starred review

"Paterson captures the essence of an adolescent's fundamental questions of God and existence in this finely honed novel. . . . Once again placing universal conflict in a historical context, Paterson gives a compassionate, absorbing rendering of an adolescent boy trying to break free from social and religious constraints." Publishers Weekly, starred review

Meet the Author

Katherine Paterson’s international fame rests not only on her widely acclaimed novels but also on her efforts to promote literacy in the United States and abroad. A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved) and the National Book Award (The Great Gilly Hopkins and The Master Puppeteer), she has received many accolades for her body of work, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, given by her home state of Vermont. She was also named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. She served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in 2010-2011.
Ms. Paterson is vice president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (www.thencbla.org), which is a not-for-profit education and advocacy organization. The NCBLA’s innovative projects actively promote literacy, literature, libraries, and the arts.  She is both an Alida Cutts Lifetime Member of the United States Board on Books for Young People (www.usbby.org) and a lifetime member of the International Board on Books for Young People (www.ibby.org).
She and her husband, John, live in Montpelier, Vermont. They have four children and seven grandchildren. For more information, visit www.terabithia.com.

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Preacher's Boy 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Classic story telling and enjoyable all around.
monroe_christian More than 1 year ago
Classic and good moral lesson.