Preacher's Boy
Preacher's Boy
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Annotation: It's 1899 in a small town in Vermont, and Robbie, the son of the local preacher, can no longer endure the tiresome restrictions of Christianity. He decides to leave the fold and resolves to live life to the fullest. But his hot-headed behavior sets off a chain of events that leaves a man's life in the balance.
Catalog Number: #5518969
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition Date: 2013
Pages: 176
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-544-10490-0
ISBN 13: 978-0-544-10490-7
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Paterson is arguably the premier author among children's book writers today, and Preacher's Boy is another in a long list of titles (but not so long as to dilute her talent) that shows why. In this story, she takes a serious philosophical topic--what God wants from us and what we want from God--and shapes its profundity with irony and wit. It is the turn of the twentieth century, and Robbie, son of a preacher, is tired of trying to please God. Moreover, although Robbie's father is kind and gentle, it's not that easy to do what he wants, either. So when a fire-and-brimstone minister suggests that the world may be ending soon, Robbie decides that whatever time is left will be more fun without God in the equation. Like Huckleberry Finn (of whom there are many overtones), Robbie is willing to take his chances with eternity for the opportunity to do what he wants. But before long, Robbie has put his mentally disabled brother in danger, almost choked another boy to death in a fury, and masterminded a harebrained kidnapping hoax that might result in a man's execution. At every turn, Paterson splendidly balances Robbie's moral choices with pure entertainment, especially as it twists the plot. And though there are a couple of stereotypical characters, including a dirty vagabond girl and her drunkard father, even they are elevated because Paterson writes about them with humor and compassion. 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. (Reviewed August 1999)
Horn Book
Robbie Hewitt has a penchant for mischief but shocks even himself when he almost drowns another boy in a murderous rage. His interactions with a pair of vagrants eventually bring about retribution for his sins and rapprochement with his minister father in a narrative that, shuttling skillfully between sentiment and farce, combines moments of painful insight with uproarious action.
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)
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.
Starred Review for Publishers 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.)
Word Count: 45,943
Reading Level: 5.2
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.2 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 34751 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.6 / points:12.0 / quiz:Q18896
Lexile: 860L
Guided Reading Level: T
Fountas & Pinnell: T

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.

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