Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Search for Belle Prater

White, Ruth. 2005. THE SEARCH FOR BELLE PRATER. 2005. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374308535 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]

At the stroke of midnight, the exact time Woodrow was born, he receives a phone call from a silent caller that Woodrow believes to be his mother. And thus the search begins to locate his missing mother in this wonderfully pleasing sequel to BELLE PRATER’S BOY (F, S & G, 1996). Woodrow and his cousin Gypsy are now in the seventh grade and have met a new friend, Cassie, who has the gift of second sight. Woodrow remains steadfastly optimistic that his mother will reach out to him when she is ready, but nevertheless wants to search for her himself. He, Gypsy and Cassie embark to Bluefield where they met Joseph, a runaway black teen, and his long-lost aunt who vaguely remembers seeing Belle with the circus. Later, when Woodrow returns to the holler to clean out the cabin he shared with his mother and father, Cassie’s dream results in Woodrow finding a letter his mother left for him declaring her love. This is truly the message that Woodrow desired, and confirms what he knew all along.

Once again the story is told through Gypsy’s first person narrative. Although reading the first novel allows for background details of characters, this story is capable of standing on its own. The realities of ‘50’s living-- segregation, extreme West Virginia rural poverty -- are examined in this story, yet the prevailing theme of optimism clearly comes through. The language of the text is beautiful and clearly depicts the mountain folk living.

Because the circus has a role in this story, readers can research and compare the circuses of the l950’s with those of today. What is different in terms of acts, treatment of employees, average pay or education of the performers, etc…? Present the findings in a visual way to share.

The following books deal with children searching for parents:
Smith, Roland. THE CRYPTED HUNTER. ISBN 0786851619
Weeks, Sarah. SO B. IT. ISBN 0066236223

By Pamela Kemp

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