Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. A Shiloh Christmas
September 22nd 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss
Things have quieted down for Marty a bit. He is slowly working off the money he owes to the doctor for saving his dog Shiloh, and he and his family have come to terms with neighbor Judd, who has mended his ways. As school starts, there is a new minister in town, and Marty is assigned the daughter, Rachel, as his partner for a school biography writing unit. The Reverend Dawes preaches a lot of fire and brimstone, frightening Marty's younger sisters. When a fire burns down several houses in the community, blame is cast of Judd, who admits to having accidentally burning down his own home when he was young, but Marty thinks that is an unfair accusation. His father must spend time helping the victims of the fire instead of building on to the family home so that Marty can have his own room. As Christmas approaches, it is clear that both Rachel and her sister Ruthie are the victims of their father's very strict punishments. While it doesn't quite reach the level of abuse, both Marty and his parents are concerned enough to try to help the girls, which they eventually manage to do. Judd spends a long time living in a tent in the family's yard in the wake of his home being destroyed, and by the end of the book, is considered a family friend.
Strengths: Ms. Naylor is about 82, so good for her for continuing to write. There are not many books that include religion being published today, and this has a lot not only about church services, but about whether being kind is more important than being morally right. Marty's family has strong family values, and their community is a close knit one. If Shiloh is a popular book in your library, definitely purchase this fourth book.
Weaknesses: Shiloh does not feature very prominently in this book, and this is very slow paced.
What I really think: Styles change, and this read much like a late 1980s, early 1990s book. (The other books in the series were published in 1991, 1996 and 1997.)Think Cynthia Voigt, Katherine Patterson, and other philosophical books with badly drawn covers. Quite good, but not something my students ask for. The previous three books in the series have not circulated for several years.