The Paper Cowboy
Written by Kristin Levine
Kristin Levine’s new book introduces readers to the damage done by rumors at any time and place. However, this story takes readers to small town America in the 1950’s. The rumor has to do with who might be a communist. But it isn’t the rumor that takes center stage. It is more about the damage caused by that, Tommy, the twelve year old main character. It is also about all the things that happen to Tommy.
The simple everyday task of burning the trash causes a tragedy in Tommy’s family. This accident pushes Tommy to mature very rapidly. He takes over an early morning paper route to help his parents earn enough money to pay the bills. But he is also covering up for other sins of the family. His mother is suffering from depression and often beats him when she is angry. Other days she spends the whole day in bed, neglecting the needs of the little children and the house.
Levine seamlessly takes us into the life of this family and the heart of young Tommy who dreams of being a cowboy. While he daydreams about the heroes of the old West, he is busy saving his whole family. He isn’t an unrealistic hero though as he stumbles along his way getting into one scrape after another. Finally, he learns to ask for help and the most unusual people in the town come together to solve the problems.
Grade 5 readers and well beyond will enjoy traveling back into the 50’s to spend time with Tommy and his family. Teachers and librarians will be able to use this book to further develop literacy skills, American history, and social studies. Many of the people who come to Tommy’s aid are immigrants who had great careers in their home countries, but have nothing in their new land. Except the strength of their morals and education, both of which help solve the largest problems Tommy has to face.