Lord of the Mountain by Ronald Kidd

Lord of the Mountain

Ronald Kidd, Author

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, Sep. 1, 2018

Suitable for ages: 9-12

Pages: 296

Themes: Family Secrets, Grief, Family Relationships,  Mountain Music, Self-discovery

Synopsis:

Nate’s family has a secret. And it’s wrapped up in a song. Ever Since Nate Owens saw a needle glide across a 78-rpm record, he’s been fascinated by the science and beauty of music. Before long, he is devouring Popular Science magazines and making his own crystal set radio.

It’s the summer of 1927 when Victor Records producer Ralph Peer comes to Nate’s hometown of Bristol,  Tennessee/Virginia, to audition “mountain music” singers and musicians. There’s no way Nate is going to miss the chance to get inside the studio and learn the mechanics of the recording business. He becomes friends with the technical team, the soon-to-become famous Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. The only problem is, Nate’s preacher father hates music and says it is evil — forbidding it in his home and his church. When he discovers that Nate’s been hanging around musicians and producers, he comes down hard. With nothing left for Nate at home, he decides to take off in search of answers to his family’s troubled past. He carries with him a picture of a grave site that says “Sweet Sister” on it.

Nate hops a train with the help of a man he meets, Bill. Bill quickly educates Nate about the rails — when to get on and off, how to  hide his possessions in his shoes, and the dangers he may encounter. He learns that the homeless are called “hoboes” and that they have “jungle” camps in towns near train routes. They offer a place to sleep, shared food, safety from the police and other thugs.

Nate ends up in Poor Valley, where the Carter Family lives. They welcome him into their home and Nate begins to work for the family. They travel around the mountains in search of songs they can record for Victor Records. Along the way Nate stumbles upon his own past and the secrets that have driven his father to religious fanaticism.

Set during the “big bang” of country music, this exciting historical novel tells of one boy’s journey of self-discovery at a moment when an entire region was finding its voice for the first time.

Why I like this book:

Ronald Kidd has written a captivating novel that cleverly weaves together a 13-year-old boy’s journey to discover the deep wounds that grip his father/family, and pursue his love of music and the science behind the recording industry. Wow, this novel is a treasure for readers who like historical fiction. I learned so much about  the birth of country music, which was known in the late 1920s as “mountain music!” A lot of research went into this novel.

The main characters and minor ones are multi-layered and unforgettable. You get a real feel for the musical details of the period and the fabric of the community –the Carters and hoboes included. Nate is a strong and determined character, not willing to accept his father’s fanatic rantings to his tent congregation. He’s driven by his passion for science and learning. His younger brother, Arnie, wants to be his father. Nate’s mother is gentle and seems to understand Nate’s father for reasons he can’t understand. His best friend Sue Dean, is a lovely balance to Nate, but she also has her secrets. Both their families are dysfunctional.

The setting is vivid and realistic. The plot is bold and adventurous with an ending readers won’t forget.  Readers looking for something new and creative will enjoy this book. This is a perfect book for school libraries.

What a pleasure it was to read Ronald Kidd’s novel. I look forward to catching up with his other novels.  As other’s have mentioned, this novel reminds you of Vince Vawter’s work.

Ronald Kidd is the author of 13 novels for young readers, including the highly acclaimed “Night on Fire” and “Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial.” His novels of adventure, comedy, mystery, and American history have received the Children’s Choice Award, an Edgar Award nomination, and honors from the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. He is a two-time O’Neill playwright who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Greg Pattridge hosts the 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 publisher.

A Happy Hat – Perfect Picture Book Friday

A Happy Hat9781433813382_p0_v1_s260x420A Happy Hat

Cecil Kim, Author

Joo-Kyung Kim, Illustrator

Imagination Press, Fiction, Sep. 28, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Hats, Resilience, Self-worth, Contentment, Optimism, Hope

Opening: “I am a hat. I am worn out here and there. I have a few holes, and even a few weeds sticking out. But I am still very much a hat. A very happy hat. I have lots of stories to tell.”

Synopsis: This is the story of a very happy and stylish hat made by the most popular hat maker in town. It is a  black silk hat decorated with peacock feathers. There are many gentlemen who want to buy the hat.  But, its first owner is a new groom on his wedding day. The hat feels very special to be worn for such a festive occasion.  As time passes the hat ends up in a second-hand store for sale where it is purchased by a magician. The hat feels lucky that it can make so many children laugh. The hat eventually ends up with a street musician who turns it upside down to collect coins to feed his hungry family. The hat is joyful to have children dance and giggle around it. One day a dog steals the hat and abandons it in the woods where it weathers the seasons with a positive attitude, until a mother bird makes her nest in the hat. What will happen to the hat?

Why I like this book:  Cecil Kim has written a beautiful story about an extraordinary hat that manages to find the good in life no matter its challenges. I love that it is told from the hat’s upbeat viewpoint. There are many teachable moments for children to learn about disappointment, challenges, self-worth, self-discovery, hope and optimism — all presented in the tale of a silk top hat. Before it was translated, it was originally published in Korean in 2011.  Joo-Iyung Kim’s illustrations are bold and colorful and remind me of a collage.

Resources: The book itself is a resource. The tale ends with a double-page spread of illustrations that give children the opportunity to imagine and write a caption about what the hat, the magician and street musician are thinking.  After the baby bird leaves the hat, children are encouraged to draw a picture of who they think should be the hat’s next owner. There also is a double-page spread written by Mary Lamia, PhD, for parents, teachers and caregivers on how to teach children about disappointment, encourage hope, and develop a positive outlook on life.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.