Something to Hold by Katherine Schlick Noe

Full disclosure: I first met Katherine Schlick Noe some years ago at a social event (she works with my wife) where I learned she was writing a children’s novel, Something to Hold, which has just been released. Now, I don’t normally read children’s fiction but, since making her acquaintance, I was naturally curious to read her first novel, and can say that even as an adult I was completely won over by the book’s strong sense of place and emotional register. Here is my review.

The time is 1962 and 11-year-old Kitty has just moved with her family to an Indian reservation in central Oregon. They have relocated so her father can work as a forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, fighting fires in the nearby Cascades. Her brothers quickly find playmates through little league baseball, but Kitty feels threatened by an early encounter with some of the local reservation kids and she wonders if she’ll ever make friends. She dreads the thought of going to school with Jewel and Raymond, the ones who had intimidated her, but as Kitty gets to know the kids at school she begins to see another side of her intimidators. She also begins to question the stereotypical views of her off-reservation church friends and the bias in her teacher’s Columbus Day curriculum. By the end of the book Kitty has grown in confidence, and her courage is put to the test by both a wildfire and a tense scene with the stepfather of Jewel and Raymond. The dry landscape of central Oregon vividly backdrops the social landscape and emotional journey of a girl facing up to her fears, insecurities and preconceptions. This memorable coming-of-age novel set in the Northwest should have broad appeal to  late elementary and middle school readers.

Scott

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