YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
The Truth about Sparrows has been adapted for audio, Listening Library, 2005.
In her first novel for young adults, The Truth about Sparrows, Marian Hale tells the Depression-era story of twelve-year-old Sadie and her family as they flee drought and the Depression in Mis- souri and head off to Texas to start a new life. Sadie is devastated to leave her old life and friends behind. The story follows the family as it struggles to survive during their journey to Texas, which includes working in cotton fields and washing in animal troughs. When the family finally arrives in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico, where Sadie's crippled father hopes to find work, Sadie discovers that her difficulties are far from over. Her family is forced to live in a shantytown in houses made of cardboard boxes. Furthermore, Sadie does not hear from her best friend in Missouri and finds herself the brunt of derisions aimed at her from a snobbish local girl. Eventually, however, Sadie learns to focus on the positive rather than the negative aspects of her life.
Critics generally praised The Truth about Sparrows. "Sadie emerges as an endearing, complex character who rages against her displacement," wrote Gillian Engberg in Booklist. Also commenting on Sadie, Horn Book reviewer Betty Carter commented that she is "triumphant and memorable, as is her entire family." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Truth about Sparrows a "beautifully realized work, memorable for its Gulf Coast setting and the luminous voice of Sadie Wynn." Cindy Darling Codell, writing in the School Library Journal, noted: "Rich with social history, this first novel is informative, enjoyable, and evocative."
Hale's next novel, Dark Water Rising, features seventeen-year-old Seth, a discontented teenager in the year 1900 who has just moved to Galveston, Texas, with his family. Annoyed with having to constantly watch his little sister, Seth is also discouraged because he wants to be a carpenter while his parents want him to go to college. Seth nevertheless comes to think that Galveston is a fun place. In fact, Seth's life seems to be improving daily, only to have the historic, devastating storm of September 8, 1900, hit the area where Seth lives. Historically, the storm killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed 3,600 homes and businesses. The story follows Seth as he seeks to discover whether or not the other members of his family and his newfound girlfriend have survived the horrendous carnage. The book includes historic photographs of the storm's effects.
Among the book's many positive reviews was one by Janet Hilbun, who wrote in the School Library Journal: "Fact and fiction are blended effortlessly together in an exciting read that leaves readers with a sense of hope." In a review in Booklist, Francisca Goldsmith called Dark Water Rising a "fine example of historical fiction [that] has something for almost everyone." Also commenting on the novel's historical accuracy, Janis Flint-Ferguson wrote in Kliatt: "This novel recreates the first of the 20th century storms and gives readers a realistic look at an earlier time period and how folks recovered from their own storm of the century." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "exciting, tear jerking, and life affirming."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 326; November 15, 2004, Hazel Rochman, Top 10 First Novels for Youth," includes review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 599; January 1, 2005, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 773; October 15, 2006, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Dark Water Rising, p. 46.
Horn Book, September-October, 2004, Betty Carter, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 585.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 685; August 1, 2006, review of Dark Water Rising, p. 787.
Kliatt, September, 2006, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Dark Water Rising, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, November 1, 2004, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 63.
Reading Teacher, November, 2005, Sharon Olson, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 277.
School Library Journal, October, 2004, Cindy Darling Codell, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 166; August, 2005, Blair Christolon, review of Dark Water Rising, p. 50; October, 2006, Janet Hilbun, review of Dark Water Rising, p. 156.
Stone Soup, May-June, 2006, Julia Worcester, review of The Truth about Sparrows, p. 40.
Cynsations Blog,http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ (September 11, 2004), review of The Truth about Sparrows.