White, R. (1996). Belle Prater's Boy. Canada: Harper Collins Canada Ltd.
One morning Belle Prater disappeared. She left behind an alcoholic husband and their cross-eyed son, Woodrow. After it was clear Belle wasn’t coming back any time soon, Woodrow went to live with his grandparents in Coal Valley, VA. Next door to his grandparents live Woodrow’s cousin, Gypsy, and his Aunt, Beauty, and her husband, Porter. Gypsy and Woodrow are the same age, but hadn’t spent that much time together on account of there having been a disagreement of some sort between their mothers long ago. Gypsy can’t wait to ask Woodrow what he thinks happened to his mom, and neither can anyone else in their small town. Gypsy and Woodrow become very close, Woodrow is an excellent storyteller and Gypsy is beautiful and tells great jokes. They are well liked by friends and classmates. Through the course of the story things which had been kept from the both of them about their parents' pasts begins to come out, things that are hard to hear and digest. But their friendship keeps them strong as they learn some of life’s hardest lessons.
This is a beautifully written book. I loved every bit of it. The writing is poetic and lyrical, full of sweet tales. Woodrow and Gypsy, each from different backgrounds, are struggling with the same things in life, wanting to be seen for who they are not how they appear. They also are both dealing with the loss of a parent. I loved the descriptive setting, interesting characters, and odd names of the characters. I love how the story slowly unfolds as you read it. The author doesn’t sum up the book at the end, the reader is left with enough details to draw their own conclusions. The author does an excellent job of showing the thought processes that arise in tweens as they slowly begin to open their eyes to life as it occurs around them, whether they want to or not.
Ages 9 – 12
Family, friendship, loss, self-identity
There is a sequel to this book entitled, "The Search for Belle Prater"
Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster: Woodrow's cousin; her father died when she was young, is known for her long beautiful hair
Woodrow Prater: Gypsy's cousin; Belle Prater's boy; is cross-eyed; lives with his grandparents
Belle Prater: Gypsy's aunt; Woodrow's mom; went missing; was depressed
Love Ball Dotson: Gypsy's mom; was always more beautiful that Belle; fell in love with and married Belle's boyfriend, who became Gypsy's father
Porter Dotson: Love's new husband; Gypsy's stepfather
Amos Leemaster: Gypsy's dad; killed himself while depressed after being badly burned
Sharing similar losses in their life, two cousins become best of friends while learning some of life's hardest lessons.