Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? Beck is an orphan at the Sisters of Mercy in Liverpool. He is summarily dispatched from that abusive and hard place with a passel of other boys to Canada, where he is taken to the Christian Brotherhood. There, Beck is raped and beaten by one of the brothers, who calls him “Chocolat,” for the color of his skin, before being sent off once again, this time for hard labor on a poor family’s farm. A child who never experienced home, family or love, Beck searches for meaning and understanding of a world of which he is only marginally a part. His journey continues through Canada and the U.S. during the 1920’s, coming of age with brutal lessons from each experience he has on the road. He ends up on a farm owned by a Blackfoot woman, and it is there that he finally finds peace. The brutality of life is rendered in spare, lyrical prose with dark humor. Peet animates people, animal, even furniture, with beauty and clarity, such as the parlor at the country farm, where he was treated like a slave, which “contained some bits of furniture that looked like they hated people.” This is Peet’s last novel, incomplete when he died, and was finished by Meg Rosoff.
To whom would you recommend this book? Recommended for teens and adults, grades 9 and up, who like historical fiction, especially of the Great Depression.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Teen collections
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: May 29, 2017