Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written more than 135 books, including the Newbery Award-winning Shiloh and its sequels, the Alice series, Roxie and the Hooligans, and Roxie and the Hooligans at Buzzard's Roost. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. To hear from Phyllis and find out more about Alice, visit AliceMcKinley.com.
Tackling the subject of militia movements in this timely novel, Naylor (Sang Spell; Shiloh) creates a sympathetic character in her protagonist, Ryan Walker, a Wyoming seventh grader who tentatively explores the weapons-bearing, government-hating, profoundly racist Mountain Patriots Association, which his older brother has joined. What's daring (and skillful) about Naylor's approach is that Ryan doesn't automatically reject the group's doctrines: "Half the time, anyway, they made sense. The rest, Ryan wasn't sure." The stage for Ryan's susceptibility is carefully set: Ryan's mother, badly undereducated, favors the older brother, Gil, and is proud when Gil is made a brigade commander; Ryan's father, in constant pain from a disabling injury, is slow to make his views known; and Ryan, unusually tall, has never fit in at school. Ryan's essential decency triumphs early on, but at some cost; Naylor keeps the stakes high for readers as she knits an atmosphere of impending tragedy. Details about ranch life and the rural setting add color, while Ryan's well-grounded ambition to be a cowboy creates a classic American-dream motif that subtly opposes the militiamen's creeds. The issues and the characters are developed fairly and the plot builds solidly past a surprise climax to a credibly optimistic resolution. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 6-8-Ryan Walker is the middle son of a Wyoming ranching family, cast in the shadow by his charismatic if aimless older brother, Gil. Ryan longs to be a rancher, but his pure love of the West is tested when the white-supremacist Mountain Patriots Association begins to harass a local family. When his best friend follows his parents' strict racial prejudices, Ryan is stunned to find blatant racism in his school and town. He must struggle to discern fact from slander, the importance of emotional ties, and the fine line between teasing and cruelty. Naylor has written a gripping testament to the basic, if little-exercised, freedoms of those in the United States, freedoms that must intrinsically be balanced with tolerance. Ryan gradually discovers the maturity that comes from accepting that one's beliefs and values can differ from those of friends and family. Casual cruelty and racism of the children and adults in the area is competently portrayed, while a teacher's delightfully calm encouragement of violently opposing views in her classroom is satisfying if unrealistic at times. Ryan's solemn father, convinced that his older son's beliefs are a phase, occasionally seems ill cast against the boys' racist mother. The nature of the story requires the included racially offensive language and violence, which is occasionally shocking. An exciting, important study of the need for individuals to claim and defend their beliefs while defending the freedoms of others as well.-Mary B. McCarthy, ACLIN/Colorado State Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 4-9-Phyllis Reynolds Naylor tackles the topic of bigotry through the experiences of seventh-grader Ryan Walker. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
"Bears all the hallmarks of [Naylor's] best work including a topical, intriguing plot engaging, believable characters; and lean, vivid prose".
-- VOYA, 5Q 4P review