The sixties may have come to other parts of North Carolina, but with Mama pregnant again, Daddy struggling to find work, and nine siblings underfoot, nobody in the holler has much time for modern-day notions. Especially not twelve-year-old Livy Two, aspiring songwriter and self-appointed guardian of little sister Gentle, whose eyes “don’t work so good yet.” Even after a doctor confirms her fears, Livy Two is determined to make the best of Gentle’s situation and sets out to transform the family’s scrappy dachshund into a genuine Seeing Eye dog. But when tragedy strikes, can Livy Two continue to stay strong for her family?
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Kerry Madden has written plays, journalism (Los Angeles Times, Salon, Five Points: A Journal of Literature and Art, and Sierra Club Magazine), and six books including Offsides, a New York Library Pick for 1997, and Writing Smarts, a guide to creative writing published by American Girl. In 2005 she turned her hand to children’s literature with Gentle's Holler, the first installment in what became the award-winning Maggie Valley Trilogy, Viking Children's Books. It earned starred reviews in both Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, was named a “Pick” by both the New York and the Chicago Public Libraries, and was the featured children’s book of North Carolina at the National Book Festival. The next book in the trilogy, Louisiana’s Song (2007) was equally well received, being named a Bank Street College Book of the Year and a finalist for several other awards. The third installment, Jessie’s Mountain, was published in 2008 to strong reviews. Most recently Madden published UpClose Harper Lee as part of Viking's UpClose Series and received a starred Kirkus for this biography. She has taught at the University of Tennessee, Ningbo University in China, UCLA, and elsewhere, and has visited schools across the country as a guest author. She has just accepted a new job at the University of Alabama in Birmingham as a professor of Creative Writing beginning the fall of 2009.From School Library Journal:
Grade 6-8–A family story set in the North Carolina hills during the 1960s. With a father who chases a seemingly impossible dream and a homemaker mother who tries to compensate by multitasking, 12-year-old Livy Two wonders if she will ever get to see the world she's been introduced to via her schoolbooks and the bookmobile. She is distressed to learn that her 14-year-old brother plans to run away to find a job; her three-year-old sister, Gentle, is blind; another baby is on the way; and her cranky (although ultimately wise) grandmother is turning a visit into a long stay. Daily worry and struggle wear Livy down until she begins to express anger and frustration over the brother who has left (but does send money back home) and the librarian who at first cannot produce materials for Gentle. When an accident places her father in a coma, Livy begins to reconsider her feelings. Madden's characters are endearing, even when they are stubborn. The differing opinions that Livy's parents express display both normal friction and love. Grandma becomes the family's center of strength, and Uncle Hazard, the family dog, provides humor. Women in professional roles and references to the Civil Rights movement tie the story to national events. Livy's narration rings true and is wonderfully voiced, and Madden's message about the importance of forgiveness will be well received.–Cindy Darling Codell, formerly at Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY
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