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A Fine White Dust


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Gr 5-8-Cynthia Rylant (S&S, 1986) tells the unusual and compelling story of Pete, a 13-year-old North Carolina boy swept off his feet by an itinerant revival preacher. His hero worship causes conflicts with his loving but non-religious parents and his best friend, Rufus. The fervor of the hot summer night church meetings fascinates Pete, and he secretly agrees to leave town with the preacher who he believes can do no wrong. The potentially dangerous decision is well resolved, but Pete learns some painful lessons about trust. Pete's thoughts and conversations are related in a spare, eloquent style that works well as a sound recording. Jeff Woodman's softly Southern inflection and his careful portrayal of each character adds warmth and depth to this poignant novel. Instructions on the tape tell listeners when to fast forward and when to turn the cassette over. This memorable story is enhanced by the audio format.-Barbara S. Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT

Pete is 13 the summer the Preacher Man comes to his small town, vulnerable with both adolescent yearning and the need to find religious fulfillment. His parents are lapsed church-goers, who neither share nor encourage their son's deeper convictions. The Preacher Man, with mesmerizing blue eyes, is a traveling evangelist who holds revivalist meetings in Pete's town that summer; Pete finds in him a companion who can understand his feelings about God without speaking a word. As the Preacher Man takes on Christ-like proportions in his mind, Pete decides to travel with the man when he leaves town. Pete waits for him all night, his bags packed, feeling as if he were called to this journey. But Rufus, his best friend and a confirmed atheist, is the one who tells Pete that the Preacher Man has run off with a woman. A year later, Pete understands that the Preacher Man's fallibility was of this earth, not to be confused with a betrayal by God. Rylant's writing is deceptively simple, creating an emotional whirlpool for the reader that is not unlike Pete's own experience. Her characters are adults and teenagers who are neither good nor bad, but richly, heartbreakingly human. (11-13)

New York Times Book Review
"Poignant and perceptive."
-- Booklist, starred review
"Simply but beautifully written...a tale with enough suspense to hold readers till the end."
-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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