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"Two of the things Benjamin Hunter received for his twelfth birthday took him completely by surprise: A room and a letter. The room was from his parents. The letter was from his uncle."
Ben was just two years old when he and his uncle, Ian, were last together, so Ben didn't remember him. And no one in Ben's family ever talked about the man. Thenthe letter arrived, changing Ben's life, and changing his family in unexpected ways. And there was the birthday room...
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"Two of the things Benjamin Hunter received for his twelfth birthday took him completely by surprise: a room and a letter. The room was from his parents. The letter was from his uncle."
A room and a letter--both so vague in the abstract, and so full of possibility. On Ben's birthday, however, both weigh heavily on his mind. The room is given to Ben as an artist's studio: his mother tells him, "'If you could paint Yellow Sky among all the clutter on the kitchen table,... just think what you could do here.'" Ben thinks getting a bicycle or big-screen TV might have been easier, and wishes he'd never painted the award-winning Yellow Sky. The letter creates an entirely different set of pressures. It is an invitation to visit his mother's brother, uncle Ian from Eugene, Oregon--the same brother she blames for the accident where Ben lost his little finger. Ben wants to meet his uncle: "Who wouldn't want to meet the person responsible? Wasn't it more weird not to think about it?" But Ben's mother has pushed Ian out of her life, and out of Ben's life, too, until she finally agrees to take her son to Oregon.
From here the story weaves in and out, exploring the complications of love, blame, and guilt. Ben's uncle--about to become a father himself--feels guilty for the accident, Ben's mother blames him. In a plot twist that further accentuates this theme, Ben makes an innocently offhand comment that leads to a little boy falling out of a tree and breaking his arm--a parallel to Ian's own sense of guilt about the accident that hurt Ben. If all of this sounds rather heavy, it is, but Ben's developing relationship with 13-year-old Lynnie and the breezy relief of the goofy interplay with Kale and Elka, the 5-year-old twins, keep the story buoyant. The happy ending, where the dreaded birthday room finds a new and noble purpose, doesn't hurt a bit either. Kevin Henkes, author of the award-winning novels Sun and Spoon, Words of Stone, and Protecting Marie--as well as picture books such as Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse--has a talent for getting straight to the heart of things, lucidly and compassionately portraying the emotions of his characters like few can. (Ages 10 and older)From the Inside Flap:
Benjamin Hunter receives two surprises on his twelfth birthday: a room and a letter. The room is from his parents. The letter is from his uncle. Ben was just two years old when he and his uncle Ian were last together, so Ben doesn't remember him. Now Ian wants Ben to visit, and Ben has an unexplainable urge to see - and know - his uncle. That is, if Ben's mother can let go of an old grudge long enough to let him have his wish.
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Book Description Greenwillow, New York, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. A 12-year-old visits his uncle and gets caught in family problems, and later begins to accept himself as an artist. Seller Inventory # 4507
Book Description Greenwillow Books, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0688167330
Book Description Greenwillow Books, 1999. Condition: New. Kevin Henkes (illustrator). book. Seller Inventory # M0688167330
Book Description GreenWilBk, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Excellent value. 1ST PRINTING, NUMBER LINE. DJ-new in mylar. From private collector. We ship within 24 hours. We sell books from New to Acceptable. We take care to be accurate in our description. Most of our books were gently read and in fine condition. BNCTucsonbooks ships daily. Proceeds from the sales of books support an endowed scholarship to Brandeis University, Waltham Mass. Seller Inventory # mon0000053665
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0688167330
Book Description Greenwillow Books, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1st. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0688167330n