by Wendelin Van Draanen
Swear to Howdy
Knopf, October, 2003.
Hardcover, 144 pages.
Swear to Howdy will draw in any young reader with its tale of boyish pranks and the kind of freedom that boys may still enjoy in small towns, but its message about the bonds of friendship comes as swift and hard as unexpected tragedy.
Rusty Cooper tells the story about his best friend, Joey Banks, and their wonderful adventures in the small town of Lost River. Lost river is clearly a Southern town with its most important street named Lee Street, and a history teacher who gives detailed exams on the Civil War.
Each boy has an older sister who seems to get special privileges from parents. Rusty and Joey are the mostmischievous younger brothers any teenaged girl has ever had to endure. A huge bull frog in one's underwear drawer is enough to make any young girl scream at the top of her lungs. And that is only the beginning. Clearly sibling rivalry and the basic gender differences between male and female children create havoc in the two households. On a more somber note, Joey's father appears as a powerful and threatening man.
The amusing adventures of the two boys remind the reader of other beloved stories about growing up as a boy in America. One is reminded of Booth Tarkington's Penrod and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. But then the adventurous tricks that the two boys play on their hapless older sisters take a sudden and tragic turn. Wendelin Van Draanen deftly handles the consequences of too much freedom in the lives of young boys. Swear to Howdy is a book that teaches some tough moral lessons and should be put in the hands of as many young readers as possible.
--Sarah Reaves White
Swear to Howdy is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the November-December, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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