True Colors

Readers of historical, regional fiction—like Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank, and A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck—are liable to enjoy True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock.

Rich with childhood pleasures like popsicles, swimming holes, and cotton candy but also replete with childhood fears like divorce, abandonment, and acceptance, Kinsey-Warnock’s book features Blue Sky, a ten year old girl living on a dairy farm near Shadow Lake, Vermont in 1952.  Blue, who at two days old was “found stuffed into the copper kettle Hannah Spooner grew her marigolds in” (1), longs to learn her identity and the reasons her mama abandoned her.  Feeling like a misfit, Blue identifies with the local “slow” 31 year old,Raleigh, who has a dent in his head from an adolescent accident and gets called Frankenstein by the area bullies.  Despite being differently able, as a dancerRaleighis just like anyone else.  Plus, he has a soft heart and a way with animals.  Blue also befriends a wild stray which Hannah names Cat.  BecauseRaleighand Cat are good listeners, with them Blue can share her secret longings, insecurities, and deepest fears.

Feeling trapped and overworked, Blue wishes for the spoiled life of her friend Nadine Tilton, whose family owns a summer camp near the Spooner farm.  Nadine travels, attends fancy schools, and eats expensive, unusual foods—exotic allures to Blue until the smells of baking bread, hot doughnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger cease to inundate the Spooner farmhouse.  Aware that one word, one little event can change everything, Blue is haunted by “what ifs” and “if onlys.”

From this story about friendship, family, and self-discovery, readers also learn that there are different kinds of smart, that keeping secrets to protect someone often doesn’t shield them from hurt, and that you can be mad at someone and still love them.  We further discover that “the smallest words are the most powerful, like home and mama and love” (242).

Perhaps because she is a descendant from a long line of Scottish dairy farmers who settled in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont over 200 years ago, Kinsey-Warnock incorporates a plethora of Scottish terms in her book to add local color and to preserve a family story.  Additional perks include historical trivia from the time period, and challenging vocabulary introduced in  Reader’s Digest “Increase Your Word Power” fashion.

  • Posted by Donna

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