In the Language of Loons

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9780525652373: In the Language of Loons

t was summer, 1969, and for all his life, Arlis would remember it because of the loons Spending the summer with his grandparents opened new worlds for Arlis. He was glad to be away from his father, who was always too busy to spend time with him anyway. That wasn't the case with Grandpa. Grandpa taught him about the stars, about birds, and most especially about having faith in himself and the need to take responsibility for your actions. It was the summer he started to run, and realized he could be good at something if he tried hard enough. When school started that fall, even though some sad changes came as well, he was a new Arlis, one who was able to stand on his own.

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Review:

Sometimes a summer can make all the difference. Friendless, awkward Arlis was humiliated daily by his classmates. Once, toward the end of the school year, they even forced him to eat a worm sandwich! Then came the summer. Who could have known that staying at Grandpa and Grandma's farm would change Arlis forever? It must have been the loons. During their sleepy summer days spent fishing at the lake, Grandpa teaches Arlis all about the rare birds that howl and nest nearby. Arlis learns that loons are ancient and strong, but awkward in their own ways. While watching the birds struggle to survive, Arlis discovers a lot about himself. School would be different next year--in many surprising ways.

Without wasting a single word, author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock packs a powerful, profound story of transformation into this slim novel. Though younger teens will devour it with interest and ease, older teens will appreciate some of the story's more subtle threads of hope and inner change.

From Kirkus Reviews:

From Kinsey-Warnock (As Long as There Are Mountains, p. 875, etc.), a short novel about growing up that opens at the end of the school year in 1969 and closes the next spring. Arlis, 12, is relieved to be away from home, where, during a field trip, he stripped to his underwear to wallow in mud like a pig, was urinated on by classmates, and tricked into eating a worm sandwich. At his grandparents' Vermont farm for the summer, Arlis warms to his grandfather, who teaches Arlis about the call of the loons during a fishing trip. Arlis's carelessness with a fishing line leads to a loon's death; when the elderly man encourages Arlis to take up running, he tries, quits, tries again, then easily makes the cross-country team, turns a tormentor into a friend, reconciles with his father, who goes in a few pages from an overworked lawyer to a runner who sings in the choir. In a final contrivance from which Arlis emerges a hero, he drives his mother through snowstorm to the hospital where she gives birth. Kinsey-Warnock trivializes life-and-death events with more prosaic material; in the meantime, pieces of plot remain undeveloped, e.g., an essay, mentioned only when Arlis is assigned it, and when he turns it in, is greeted with ``This is good, Arlis. Very good. I didn't know you could write like this.'' Every chapter contains emotional scenes or rhapsodic passages on nature, but they are glued on rather than transpiring naturally in the story. (Fiction. 10-12) -- Copyright 1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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