Thursday, April 16, 2015

ARC Review: Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

Dear Hank Williams
Author: Kimberly Willis Holt
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (April 14, 2015)

Description: It’s 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee’s new teacher has just given her class an assignment—learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her great-aunt and -uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits.

Told entirely through Tate’s hopeful letters, this beautifully drawn novel from National Book Award–winning author Kimberly Willis Holt gradually unfolds a story of family love, overcoming tragedy, and an insightful girl learning to find her voice.

My Thoughts: I fell in love with Tate P. Ellerbee as I was reading the letters she wrote to Hank Williams. Her teacher had given the class an assignment to choose a pen pal. The teacher had arranged for her class to write to Japanese children but, in 1948 Louisiana, many of the children didn't want to write to children in a country that we had fought a war with. Tate picks Hank Williams because she heard him sing on the radio.

Through Tate's letters, answered only with autographed photos, we learn what life is like for a dreamy 11-year-old in rural Louisiana. We learn about her Aunt Patty Cake who sells beauty products, her Uncle Jolly who works at a nursery and has bad luck in love, and we learn about Tate's pesky little brother Frog. Tate's letters also express how much she misses her mother and her father. And, as the letters go on, we learn why neither of them is a part of Tate's daily life.

We see Tate's rivalry with schoolmate Verbia Calhoun and we see her determination to sing in the local talent show. We see her relationship with her new dog Lovie and we feel her heartbreak when Lovie doesn't come home.

This story was filled with heart and hope and I sobbed as I read the last thirty pages. Readers who want a glimpse into life after the Second World War as told by a wonderful character won't want to miss this excellent story.

Favorite Quote:
I believe music should fill up inside a person like air and make them think they're so light, they could float to the clouds. Hank Williams, that's the way you sound when you sing, like you're a part of those words coming out of your mouth, heading toward the sky.
I got this ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

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