Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The name of debut novelist Vawter's 11-year-old protagonist, Vincent Vollmer III, doesn't appear until the very end of this tense, memorable story-Vincent's stutter prevents him from pronouncing it. Vincent is an excellent listener and a keen observer, and the summer of 1959 presents him with the challenge of taking over a friend's paper route in segregated Memphis. He engages with several neighborhood customers and characters while on the job, gaining new awareness of varied adult worlds, racial tension, and inequality, as well as getting into some dangerous situations. Vawter draws from his own childhood experience at a time "when modern speech therapy techniques were in their infancy," he writes in an endnote, calling the story "more memoir than fiction." The story unfolds as Vincent's typewritten account of the summer, and inventive syntax is used throughout. Commas and quotation marks are verboten-Vincent isn't a fan of the former, since he has enough extra pauses in his life already-and extra spaces appear between paragraphs, all subtly highlighting his uneasy relationship with the spoken word. Ages 10-up. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Little Man, whose real name isn't revealed until the conclusion, stutters badly, a situation that presents new difficulties now that he's taken over his friend's paper route for a month. Debut author Vawter depicts a harshly segregated 1959 Memphis, and since the tale is highly autobiographical, he captures a full and realistic flavor of the time. Little Man, as he's called by his brave, black live-in housekeeper, Mam, has a few less-than-effective strategies that he employs to control his stutter, but it dominates his life nonetheless. Along the paper route, he encounters three fully rounded characters who make their mark on the story: Mrs. Worthington, a young, attractive and abused wife who drinks too much and awakens in Little Man a new, albeit very safe, interest in the opposite sex; Mr. Spiro, a widely read retired seaman who offers Little Man heartfelt advice and insightful support; and scary junkman Ara T, who steals Little Man's knife and evolves into a looming threat both to the boy and Mam. Carefully crafted language, authenticity of setting and quirky characters that ring fully true all combine to make this a worthwhile read. Although Little Man's stutter holds up dialogue, that annoyance also powerfully reflects its stultifying impact on his life. An engaging and heartfelt presentation that never whitewashes the difficult time and situation as Little Man comes of age. (Historical fiction. 10-14)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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