Vawter, Vince. (2013.) Paperboy. New York: Delacorte Books for Young Readers. [Kindle Dx version] Retrieved from Amazon.com.ISBN 0385742444.
2. PLOT SUMMARY
Memphis born, 11-year-old Victor has a stutter – even his own name is hard to get out. So he uses a technique from a speech therapist that has him releasing air and hissing letters, because at 11 years old, “it’s better to be called a snake, than a retard.” He loves pitching baseball, his friend ‘Rat’ and his African American housekeeper, Miss Nell – ‘Mam,’ who calls him ‘Little man.’After taking Rat’s paper route as an apology for a busted lip during one hot July, things really start to shake up. A neighborhood woman drinks too much, a retired merchant marine coerces him to come out of his shell, and he’s forced to communicate with customers. But when a drifter junkman refuses to give back his knife, things take a turn for the worse. Set against the changing segregation of the South in the late 1950’s, ‘Little Man’ must stand up for himself and Mam and learn that you can’t always make a difference on your own, but you must always have courage to try.
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
A few years ago, I would have had to google in order to check the accuracy of the setting and tone of Paperboy. Now, living in Memphis, I can feel the heart of the city in each page - from Peabody Avenue to the Memphis Zoo on the trolley and in alleyways. Vawter does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of the city in the late 1950’s. The characters are believable and most are quite likeable - as they should be. Paperboy is a mostly autobiographical piece for Vawter. Little Man comes to life in million little details -- from his stutter to the descriptions of the lemonade at the Italian restaurant with his family -- we can feel each setting in the small movement and piece them into the larger image. Even his parents and the villain, Ara T, could easily come off as caricatures, but have enough depth and moments to set them apart from two-dimensional stand-ins. Vawter leaves enough information to give depth to the civil-rights movement happening around Little Man, but doesn’t overwhelm the reader in events that would pass, and often do, right over the head of his young protagonist. For instance, Mam’s seat on the bus or her uniform just feel like part of her, even though even Little Man recognizes there’s something strange and perhaps not right about the situation. Even his attempts to stand up to Ara T and speak when its painful help to keep the theme of growth and moral justice through learning even and authentic. Though at times Little Man’s speech patterns get a little overwhelming, especially since he states he is typing rather than telling the story, the first person style of the narrative keeps the pacing of the story moving. There are moments when it slows, but like the Memphis heat, a cool breeze shuffles through to keep the protagonist and his thoughts moving until you slide into the Autumn rains and things reach their culmination.
4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
A NEWBERY HONOR AWARD WINNER
AN ALA-ALSC NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOK
AN IRA CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULTS’ CHOICE
AN IRA TEACHERS’ CHOICE
A JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION
A BANK STREET COLLEGE OF EDUCATION BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A NATIONAL PARENTING PUBLICATIONS AWARD HONOR BOOK
A BOOKPAGE BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK
AN ABC NEW VOICES PICK
AN ALA-ALSC NOTABLE CHILDREN’S RECORDING
AN ALA-YALSA AMAZING AUDIOBOOK
AMAZON BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2013: AGES 9-12
From BOOKLIST – “First-time author Vawter has lived this story, so he is able to write movingly about what it’s like to have words exploding in your head with no reasonable exit. This paperboy is a fighter, and his hope fortifies and satisfies in equal measure.”
From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL – “Vawter portrays a protagonist so true to a disability that one cannot help but empathize with the difficult world of a stutterer. Yet, Victor's story has much broader appeal as the boy begins to mature and redefine his relationship with his parents, think about his aspirations for the future, and explore his budding spirituality.”
Gather other coming of age books to read such as:
• Timberlake, Amy. ONE CAME HOME. ISBN 0375873457.
• Vanderpool, Clare. NAVIGATING EARLY. ISBN 0385742096.
• Howe, James. ADDIE ON THE INSIDE. ISBN 1416913858.
• Erskine, Kathryn. THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE. ISBN 0142421014.
Gather other books that explore the early 1960’s in America, such as:
• Scattergood, Augusta. GLORY BE. ISBN 0545331803.
• Madden, Kerry. GENTLE’S HOLLER. ISBN 0142407518.
• McMullan, Margaret. SOURCES OF LIGHT. ISBN 0547722362.