Friday, December 29, 2017

Slider's Son

34415787Davis, Rebecca Fjelland. Slider's Son
September 12th 2017 by North Star Press of St. Cloud
Copy received from the author for Cybils Award nomination

The Great Depression has hit the small North Dakota town where Grant O'Grady lives pretty hard, but things are decent for Grant, since his father, Slider, is the town policeman. The family still struggles a bit, and Grant joins his friends in picking up pieces of coal that fall of the passing trains so that the family can heat their home, and hopes to pursue a professional baseball career in order to better his life. His friend Little Joe has bigger problems. His mother is Native American (Mandan Nation) and his father, Big Joe not only drinks more than Slider (who seems to have a verifiable problem), but is abusive to his wife and children. He even manages to break Grant's arm vary badly after the two have a run in. At the very beginning of the book, we find that Big Joe has been killed and left in the family's cellar, and the family is nowhere to be found. The book goes back over the incidents that lead up to this event. We see lots of evidence about how difficult life was at this period in time, including a child who has tuberculosis, a grandmother who has cancer and refuses treatment, and elderly neighbors who struggle with having enough food.
Strengths: This was well researched, and moved quickly, especially since it started with the graphically macabre description of Big Joe's demise. I like the small details, like the store heating the area by burning old tires in a barrel, and small glimpses into the daily life of teens at the time. Not as many opportunities for children to climb up things or shoot things today!
Weaknesses: This had a lot of mature content and was not for readers sensitive to corpses or domestic abuse. I think the issues with Native Americans were well researched, vetted, and handled fairly, but there still may be some who complain.
What I really think: This would have been a bit more clever if Slide would have been the abusive father. This will be a title that selected students will find helpful for the language arts project that involves historical fiction from this time period, and is a great companion to books like DeFelice's Nowhere to Call Home and Hunt's No Promises in the Wind.
Ms. Yingling

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