Friday, January 6, 2012
Looking for Newbery - With a Name Like Love
I wish I could remember which list include With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo because it's one of my favorites. I won't lie, I was a bit put off by the title, sounded a little romantic for my taste, but once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.
At thirteen, Ollie is the oldest daughter of a traveling preacher named Everlasting Love. Everlasting is the son of a traveling preacher and loves the life of going from town to town saving souls and preaching the word. Ollie, on the other hand, is a typical 13 year old who would love to settle down somewhere, attend a real school, have friends other than her sisters and live in a real house, not the trailer pulled behind her father's truck. She loves her father and respects what he does, she just wishes he would do it in a more permanent setting.
When the Loves pull into Binder, a small town like so many others, their life changes. Ollie meets a boy with a cloud over him. His father has been killed and his mother is in jail after admitting to the murder. His family lives on "the wrong side of the tracks" and the rest of the town won't give them a break. Ollie feels sorry for him and thinks there is more to the story than what is known publicly. She talks it over with her mother and father and pretty soon the family is wrapped up in the politics and drama of an unsolved murder and a family in crisis.
Tess Hilmo does great job of creating the tension of the small town complete with a crooked sheriff with connections to the state attorney, a bitter mean woman who runs the local store and her bully sons. I was angry at all of them as I read the story and couldn't wait for each one of them to "get theirs!"
Of course the story wouldn't be complete without the positive side of life in the small town and Ollie's family is blessed to be taken in after a fire by Mrs. Mahoney who understands Ollie's desire to settle down and does what she can to make that happen. Tess Hilmo uses her to provide hope for Ollie and to temper the bad side of a bad situation.
This is absolutely one of my favorite books of the year. I have recommended it to the better fifth grade readers because there are some fairly graphic violent moments and themes that a mature reader can handle. I hope this book doesn't get lost in the shuffle because it is definitely well done. I may be jumping the gun a bit, but I can see this as a future Grand Discussion selection.