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The Blue Hill Meadows


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About the Author

Cynthia Rylant is a Newbery medalist and the author of many acclaimed books for young people. She's well known for her popular characters for early readers, including Mr. Putter & Tabby and Henry & Mudge. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. ELLEN BEIER lives in Corvallis, Oregon.


Newbery Medalist Rylant's (Missing May) talent for bringing sparkle to the everyday world of family, pets and friends is evident in her latest offering, which has a format designed to fill the gap between beginning-to-reads and longer chapter books. Four short chapters, each set in a different season, describe the simple but bountiful existence of Willie Meadow and his family in the peaceful countryside of Blue Hill, Va. In summer, the family is overjoyed when Willie's father takes in a stray dog who is soon to have puppies. In the fall, Willie goes fishing with his dad; winter brings a blizzard, uncommon in Blue Hill; and spring finds Willie looking for the perfect gift for Mother's Day. Rylant's spare writing and hushed tone focus attention on the seemingly small details of day-to-day life that are most important to Willie and his family. Every word is carefully chosen, and it is this precise rendering of each chapter's adventure that makes it special. For example, when Willie and his father are setting off on their fishing trip, Rylant says, "They didn't talk much and this seemed right. The whole earth was being quiet, and they with it." The text is highlighted by Beier's (Mrs. Peachtree and the Eighth Avenue Cat) soft-toned, idyllic full-page watercolors and spot art of pumpkins, steaming cups of tea, puppies enjoying naps, and other inviting aspects of Blue Hill. A lovely volume that will make the leap into longer stories as comfortable as a favorite shirt or overstuffed chair. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

Gr 3-5‘In four short chapters, Rylant introduces the Meadows: Sullivan, Eva, and their two boys Ray and Willie. They live in Blue Hill, Virginia, where things move slowly and a family has time to "just be." As always, Rylant writes with grace. Her spare style effortlessly creates a sense of place, rich in homey, happy details. The watercolor and acrylic illustrations, done mostly in blues and lavenders, contribute to the gentle tone. Each chapter is set in a different season, creating a nice balance to the pacing and bringing the end back to the beginning. However, for all its loveliness, there is a detached quality to the narration that makes it read more like a sweet dream than a here-and-now story. Willie is the only character who ever develops a personality, which is a shame since the joy of adopting a stray pet, the excitement of a fishing trip, the worry about being stuck at a teacher's house during a blizzard, and agonizing over the perfect gift for Mom are all experiences that would appeal to children. Perhaps the biggest problem this book will face is finding an audience. It would be best appreciated by older readers, but it will be most attractive to the beginning chapter-book crowd, who may struggle with the language and pace. If this book is placed into the right hands, its readers will be treated to a lazy, gentle year with a really nice family.‘Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA

"Four heartwarming stories about the simple things that make family life so special. . . . Wonderful to read aloud any time of the year."
-USA Today

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