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Monday, June 15, 2015

Dear Hank Williams, written by Kimberly Willis Holt. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. 2015. $19.50 ages 10 and up

"When Rudy first starting driving the convertible, Frog couldn't resist the chance to try and beat him. He'd wait on his bicycle at the end of our driveway, and when he heard Rudy's engine he'd place his right foot on the right pedal and rise on his toes on his left. When he heard Rudy approaching, Frog's back straightened. Seconds before Rudy reached him ..."

I have a special spot in my heart for books written as letters! When those letters are written by a girl who tugs at heartstrings, it just adds to the enjoyment of time spent reading her story. I love Tate P. Ellerbee: her voice, her love of family and dogs, her need to be truthful, her dreams and her positive look at life.

An assignment on the first day of school sets Tate on a path to find a pen pal. Her teacher suggests that the students might want to write to children in Japan; she also offers the option of picking their own. Tate chooses Hank Williams, a brand new recording artist whose music she loves. In frequent letters she tells him all about life in Rippling Creek, Louisiana. She fills her letters with stories of her parents who are no longer living with her, her aunt and uncle who have taken she and her little brother Frog to live with them, her neighbors, and classmates.

In the beginning it is easier to tell lies about her parents' whereabouts. As she keeps writing, she finds herself sharing the hard-to-accept truth about them. Her father has disappeared, and her mother is in jail. There is one big thing she is not able to share, until she has garnered all the courage it will take to do so.

Tate has dreams and she shares them freely with Hank Williams, despite the fact that she never hears a word from him, except to receive publicity photos that are automatically sent to his fans. Undeterred, she continues with the letters from September through June, always hopeful that he will find the time to send her a note. It takes a lot to face all of the truths in her life, but she does so with loving support from Aunt Patty Cake and Uncle Jolly.

Full of heart and compassion, powerfully written, honest and historical in nature, readers will appreciate the sensitivity with which Tate's story is told.

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