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Summary: Dewey Turner is going to be a seventh grader at Sand Mountain High School in September. He is filled with mixed emotions. Part of him wants to be cool like his older brother Wayne. Part of him is scared to death of being hazed by upper classmen. Part of him wants friends while another part of him fears embarrassment by his peers. Dewey is a normal adolescent and this story shows how he deals with all of the challenges of growing up. This is a coming-of-age story about a boy entering high school. This is a young adult novel written at a middle grade level. It is a high interest / low readability book.
Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 13 and up
Interest Level: 12 and up
Reading Level: 5.4
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Dewey is the quintessential hero for this trek through puberty. Everyone who has passed through adolescence has subliminal memories of the period that are joyful and painful. In creating Dewey, the author has provided a real and believable person and a story that will keep readers glued to the book. The author has written a funny, sensitive, and realistic novel that sheds light on how adolescents cope while they pass through this difficult stage of their lives.
Pros: Preteens - particularly those moving into middle school or on to high school - will quickly see themselves in Dewey and his dilemmas.
Cons: The reader will have to be a little patient while the story unfolds. Once the action begins, the reader will become engaged and find if difficult to put the book down.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This book is an interesting, enjoyable, and fun read that also provides food for thought on political and social topics. The contrast with the 1960s adds a dimension that will help kids understand choices and growing up.
Educational Themes: The story takes place in August of 1966. Dewey is going through the turmoil of discovering who he is as a person. At the same time, life in America is quickly changing with the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, the Hippies and the Drug Culture. The historical context is a nice contrast with the themes of this book: the process of adolescence and the physical and emotional struggles that children experience in their lives.
Notes: The Reading Tub read an advance reader copy of this book. Down Sand Mountain won a 2009 Golden Kite Award (an SCBWI award voted on by peers)
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, friendship, coming of age, school, 1960s