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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 10 years, 6 months ago

4 February 2002 A HOLE IN THE WORLD by Sid Hite, Scholastic Press, September 2001


A HOLE IN THE WORLD left me with a touch of that same warm, quiet feeling I've gotten after reading such great books as BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, WALK TWO MOONS, and A YEAR DOWN YONDER. Sid Hite, who hails originally from Virginia where the story takes place, has created a collection of genuine characters whom I will remember with a great fondness. What is rather unusual about this book is that one of the most memorable characters is Hennley Gray, a farmhand who has died before the story begins.


The story takes place over a summer and begins when Paul Shackleford, a fifteen year old from Richmond, is delivered by his father to a distant relative's farm. He is to work the summer there as a consequence for the error in judgment he's made. As Paul explains it to Ellis Vallenport:


"A guy named Stitch asked me to provide him with an alibi, to say he'd been with me that night. I had seen him briefly that evening, for about five minutes, so when a cop came and asked me about it, I sort of stretched the truth and said we'd been hanging out. The thing was, Stitch forgot to tell me he'd borrowed his uncle's car and sideswiped some woman's car, then took off because he didn't have a license..."


"It was an ugly situation. The woman didn't have any insurance and wanted to sue for damages...and after my name was dropped into the mess, my dad had to step in and sort things out with the judge and Stitch's uncle's insurance company."


Paul is immediately put to work mucking out pigpens, replacing barbed wire fencing, and hoisting bales of hay. While he works with his kin and the hired farmhands, he gradually learns their stories as well as those of the late Hennley Gray, whose presence permeates the farm far beyond the fact that his loyal dog, his old green farm truck, and his cabin remain there.

For instance, when Paul tells Ellis the aforementioned story about what he did wrong, Ellis tells him that Hennley'd say, "Taffy stretches, but not the truth." At another memorable point Granny Furr tells Paul how, "Hennley respected words. I think he believed they lived in the air after they were spoken."


In the end, A HOLE IN THE WORLD is a splendid story in which a decent but relatively clueless kid gets himself together, in large part due to a man whom he never meets. A relatively quick read, I'll be rereading it aloud at home beginning tonight.


Richie Partington







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