Monday, June 29, 2015

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

     WARNING:  Do not start reading this book and think you can predict the ending. I guarantee you will be wrong!  When I first began reading this book I thought, “Oh, what a cute story.  I like the letter-writing format.”  I felt pretty confident I knew the “happy” ending part, after all, I’ve read a lot of books, right?  I was totally unprepared for what happened.  I am not ashamed to admit I did not see it coming and I did go back and reread most of the book to see if I missed anything. This is one of those books that will grab your heart and not let go.  It delivers a powerful message: Life includes both beginnings and endings, but through it all, it’s family and friends that see us through.

I did not want to say good-bye to Tate, Aunt Patty Cake, Uncle Jolly and Frog.  They'll be with me for a long, long time.

       Three features drew me to this book from the start. First, as a newly published (2015) middle grade fiction novel, it may be a contender for the Newbery Award.  Therefore it’s a book that we’ll be including in our Mock Newbery Book Club this fall.  Second, the genre is historical fiction.   I like historical fiction because it usually shares some new side of history that the author has discovered during her research.  Historical fiction helps make history fascinating and attainable for so many readers.  Finally, I was intrigued by the format of this book.  The entire book is written as a series of letters from a young girl, Tate P. Ellerbee, to a newly rising country singer, Hank Williams.  Through Tate’s letters we learn about her life in the small town Rippling Creek, Louisiana in 1948.  We learn not only about Tate and her family, but also about the people of the town and events that threaten to devastate, yet may bring people closer in the end.

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