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Radiance Descending

Radiance Descending

by Paula Fox

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Five years separate Paul from his younger brother, Jacob, who has Down syndrome. With meticulous tenderness, this story gentles Paul out of his rage at a family situation he can't control. Slowly, dramatically, Paul begins to let the light of Jacob's presence in the family stream into his brightening view of the world.


Five years separate Paul from his younger brother, Jacob, who has Down syndrome. With meticulous tenderness, this story gentles Paul out of his rage at a family situation he can't control. Slowly, dramatically, Paul begins to let the light of Jacob's presence in the family stream into his brightening view of the world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a starred review, PW said, "Newbery Medal-winner Fox tells a perceptive, sensitive story about a preteen-ager who is idolized by his Down's syndrome brother." Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA - Edward Sullivan
Eleven-year-old Paul is totally consumed with the hateful jealousy he feels toward his younger brother Jacob, who has Down Syndrome. He resents the attention Jacob gets from their parents. This resentment is somewhat startling because Paul's parents really do not lavish attention on Jacob at Paul's expense, but they are oblivious to Paul's feelings and expect him to be a loving brother. Paul's sympathetic grandfather partially recognizes Paul's resentment and goes out of his way to pay extra attention to him, but Paul finds no solace in that. Absorbed by his anger and resentment, he further disaffects himself from Jacob as he grows older. When Paul is given the responsibility to take Jacob to the doctor, Paul slowly begins to recognize the humanity in his brother, which leads to an epiphany in the last chapter, in which Paul finally feels a connection. My only quarrel with this novel, aside from the title, is its brevity. Paul's epiphany ends the story on a promising but uncertain note. After all of Paul's emotional turmoil, one hopes for more of a sense of closure. This lack of resolution, however, is consistent with the raw realism Fox gives the rest of the story. Like the lives of those who read this story, Paul's is open-ended and uncertain. This is a quiet, introspective novel told with great eloquence. Fox's every word is chosen with care, and every sentence masterfully crafted. Paul's emotional conflicts are believable and real. Readers, particularly those with siblings, will empathize with Paul's feelings. This is not a novel that will have a wide readership, but there are readers out there who will find this story as moving and touching as I did. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8).
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
How does a seven-year-old like Paul cope when his parents tell him that his baby brother has Down Syndrome? That he's "different"; that he'll never be a companion; that all their lives will be changed forever? In Paula Fox's Radiance Descending, Paul copes by denying, refusing to see Jacob's sunny nature, not responding to the things Jacob can do or to the unconditional love that Jacob has for his world. Fox paints a touching picture of a wonderful child who affects his whole neighborhood and the brother who finally understands. Highly recommended.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 5-8This story about living with a sibling who has Down's syndrome has an odd, unfinished feel to it. Fox's impressionistic writing shines in places, but her attempt to convey the inner feelings of 11-year-old Paul, who resents his younger brother's disability, results in a moody, uneven story that is never fully resolved. Paul hates the fact that Jacob gets so much attention. Unable to get past his feelings of jealousy and rage, he expresses himself by small acts of unkindness and by refusing to enjoy Jacob's obvious love of life. Even Paul's close relationship with his grandfather fails to bring him the solace and comfort he craves. His parents seem fairly oblivious to their son's feelings and continue to expect him to behave like a loving brother. Giving Paul the responsibility of taking his brother to the doctor is presented as an opportunity for the older boy to change his attitude, but his very slight change of heart (a begrudging acceptance of his obligation) is unconvincing and unsatisfying. Although no doubt realistic in portraying Paul's feelings, the book is too one-sided and too slow-moving to make it either good therapy or a good read.Cyrisse Jaffee, formerly at Newton Public Schools, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Fox (The Eagle Kite, 1995, etc.) offers acute psychological insight into a boy's feelings of anger and rejection, fears about what his classmates will think, and his loss of "normal" family life when his brother, who has Down syndrome, is born.

From the opening pages, readers gain a strong, worrying sense of how Paul feels about his younger brother, without being shown (until much later) just what it is about Jacob's looks and behavior that so upsets him. Only his grandfather seems to understand, writing Paul special letters, taking him on outings, and making gentle attempts to persuade Paul to accept Jacob. The only peace Paul finds is in a nearby woods; it is there he runs to escape Jacob's birthday party, and it's there Grandpa finds him in the book's epiphany. It's also where the story's hold begins to abate, as Fox brings it to a rapid close without the intensely articulated examination of feelings that has filled the preceding pages. Other than Grandpa's admission that Jacob is "an eerie child at times," there's no explanation of what it is that changes in Paul, making him want to build a relationship with his brother. But if only for the authentic delineation of a loving family's coping with one member's special needs, this is a worthwhile, poignant story.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.47(d)
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Brief Biography

Brooklyn, New York
Date of Birth:
April 22, 1923
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Attended Columbia University

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