It’s not often that I feel strongly enough to give a book five stars, but this book ranks among the best middle-grade historical fiction novels I’ve read. One measure of a book is its engagement with readers of all ages and I was as entranced by this story as any pre-teen boy might be.
Through the eyes of two boys, the story line bounces back and forth between 2002 and the 1930s, when Middle America was turning to dust and livelihoods were blown away with the topsoil. The protagonists are teenage: Andy the grandson of Myles Vincent, and Myles at age thirteen in 1930. The juxtaposition of their two lives is only one of the factors that makes this story intriguing as well as didactic.
When Myles saves a coyote pup during a huge dust storm, the boy’s character comes to life and we join the incredibly hard times of a family scratching a living from the soil in an environment that seems personally hostile. More than seventy years later, against the background of this narrative, his grandson begins the process of learning who he is. Their stories intertwine like cords in a rope.
The most surprising voice in the story comes from Ro, the coyote pup that Myles bonds with. It’s not only novel, but informative to see the Vincent family and their neighbors through his eyes. The boy’s relationship with the coyote takes me back to Eric Knight’s Lassie and Albert Payson Terhune’s rough collies at SunnyBank.
The author has done a vast amount of research to make life in the Midwest dust bowl authentic and it shows. She also displays a command of language that makes the book a joy to read. I have been concerned about our young American boys’ disinterest in reading and the negative effect it has on their education, careers and lives. I write for those boys and clearly, this author does, too. I enthusiastically recommend this book for pre-teen boys and everyone else.