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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Grape Thief by Kristine L. Franklin. Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003. ISBN: 0-7636-1325-8.

Described as a novel for young readers, I imagine this charming tale would appeal to anyone from age 9 to 99, at least. The story revolves around Slava Petrovich, nicknamed "Cuss" because he can do just that in 14 languages, growing up in the coal mining town of Roslyn, Washington in the 1920's.

Roslyn is a mix of ethnicities, which gives Cuss the opportunity to learn bits and pieces of many languages. He loves school, and the opportunity in the seventh grade, to learn Latin from the local priest. But he's no sissy, and every year, schemes to lift grapes from the annual grape train that chugs into town from California.

When his older brothers have to flee due to a mixup with the mob-controlled bootleggers, Slava and his family, headed by his widowed Croatian mother, struggle to survive. Will he be the first in his family to finish the eighth grade? Or will he have to go to work in the coal mines like his father before him?

You'll get caught up without realizing it, and the pages won't turn fast enough. You'll laugh, and you'll cry, unless you're a completely insensitive jerk.

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