Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw

The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw
by Lois Peterson
Orca, 2010. 105 pgs. Fiction

Kevin Mason is sent into foster care when his mother leaves a note in his lunchbox asking someone to take care of him because she can't. As he rides with The Welfare Lady to his new temporary home he sees a boxcar on a passing freight train tagged with the name Knuckles McGraw. He decides to become Knuckles, a lone, singularly self-sufficient cowboy who rides the range on his horse Burlington Northern, camping under the stars and free from the demands and sorrows of real life. In his new place, Joe and Liddy care for him, Breezy (a young girl who has stopped speaking since her parents died), and Ice, a tattooed teenager who is by turns angry with and sympathetic to young Kevin. Lois Peterson's straightforward, tender story of a young boy desperately trying to make a home for himself should speak to children who find themselves in just such a place, and for those wishing to understand what life is like for children abandoned or abused. Kevin's story is enclosed within the passing of two freight trains, and the mostly happy ending he finds is a comfort to the reader and instructive of how we should care for those most vulnerable among us.

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