Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: SWEET BY AND BY by Patricia Hermes

Published by:  HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2002
192 pages

First line:  "Tell me about the snowstorm," I said.

If your taste in middle-grade novels runs toward fast-paced adventures, this is not the book for you. It is a quiet, rather sad, very sweet book.

Eleven-year-old Blessing lives with her grandmother, Monnie, up on the mountain. The two make beautiful music together. When Monnie tucks her fiddle under her chin and Blessing lifts her voice to sing, everyone stops talking and scoots closer to hear. Together they make the moutains echo with "The Old Churchyard," "Bar'bry Allen," "Amazing Grace," and "Sweet By and By."

But Monnie's health is declining, and Blessing must confront two terrible fears: Monnie could die, and "Wolf" Cotter, the social worker, could take control of Blessing's life, deciding where and with whom she would live.

Sweet By and By explores the relationships forged among Blessing, Monnie, and the mountain community. It also reveals the struggle Blessing has to gain some control over her own destiny.

Patricia Hermes is the author of nearly fifty books for readers from early middle grades through young adult, as well as two nonfiction books for adults. Her books have won many awards and recognitions, including American Library Association Best Book, Smithsonian Notable Book, and C.S. Lewis Honor Book. She also has won many state awards, four of them for the novel You Shouldn't Have to Say Goodbye.

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