On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts

On Snowden Mountain

Jeri Watts, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 208

Themes: Mental illness, Separation, WW ll, Abuse, Mountain community, Friendship

Book Synopsis:

Ellen’s mother has struggled with depression before, but not like this. With her father away fighting in World War II and her mother unable to care for them, Ellen’s only option is to reach out to her cold, distant Aunt Pearl. Soon enough, city-dwelling Ellen and her mother are shepherded off to the countryside to Aunt Pearl’s home, a tidy white cottage at the base of Snowden Mountain.

Adjusting to life in a small town is no easy thing: the school has one room, one of her classmates smells of skunks, and members of the community seem to whisper about Ellen’s family. She worries that depression is a family curse to which she’ll inevitably succumb, Ellen slowly begins to carve out a space for herself and her mother on Snowden Mountain in this thoughtful, heartfelt middle-grade novel.

Why I like this book:

Jeri Watts has written a richly textured story with a heartwarming narrative about the bond of family, community and their connection to each other. I meandered my way through this story which culminated in a satisfying ending that left me feeling hopeful for Ellen, her family and friends.

The characters are colorful. Ellen is resilient even though her mother is lost to a spell of deep sadness within and her father overseas serving his country. This Baltimore city girl has a lot to get used to living with lively Aunt Pearl — no indoor plumbing, no electricity and outhouses.  Aunt Pearl is a strong woman who speaks her mind. She is stern on the outside and creates a safe space (with structure and hard work) for Ellen, but on the inside she is a generous soul. Ellen develops a friendship with a creative and sensitive boy, Russell Armentrout (Skunk Boy) can’t read or write because he is forced to trap skunks by his drunk and abusive father. Russell teaches Ellen about the nature around her and the special traits of animals. Ellen teaches him to read and count. She also meets other memorable characters who impact her life like Moselle Toms, the town gossip and troublemaker and Miss Spencer, the school teacher.

Watts introduces the reader to some heavy topics: parental separation, mental illness (depression and bipolar disorders), alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse (both child and spousal).  Both Ellen and Russell form a bond as they confront the issues of their parents. These are timely and important issues that many readers will easily identify with. This is an excellent discussion book for students.

Favorite Quotes:

She was right. It was “very different” from Baltimore. There were no streetlights, so velvet darkness wrapped around us that night — a dark of such depth I felt it cloaking me so tightly that I was strangling in it.  So soft, so smooth — and yet so deep as to swallow you.”

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

26 thoughts on “On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts

  1. I am a fan of historical fiction, particularly WWII fiction, since my three uncles all served {two of them saw combat}. This does sound like a touching story about a girl who is experiencing lots of changes and traumas of her own. Thank you for your insightful review, Patricia. I will be adding this one to my TBR ASAP.

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    • You are welcome. Yes, I like to find different stories about WW II. But the mental illness theme was an important addition to this story. So important to talk about! There will be kids who will identify with a parent or caregiver who is suffering.

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  2. Another book that deserves to be read. I am pleased that there are books still being written about World War II and its effects on people. There seems to be a number of important subjects touched upon in this book but most importantly, the resiliency of a young person.

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  3. This sounds like a beautiful book! The WWII setting, the discussion of depression and abuse, and the varied characters all seem to set this book apart. Thanks so much for the review!

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  4. On of my most continuously popular posts is Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts and when I read about On Snowden Mountain, I was excited. I haven’t read it yet, but now your review has motivated me to get to it quickly. Thanks for this review.

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  5. I really enjoy middle grade novels willing to take on such weighty topics with sensitivity. Sometimes the added dimension of it being in a historical setting helps with this.

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  6. This is really interesting because it deals with family depression in an earlier setting than we usually see it dealt with. Sounds like such a different way of life too. Glad you liked it so much.

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