It's 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee's new teacher has just given her class an assignment—learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her great-aunt and -uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits.
Told entirely through Tate's hopeful letters, this beautifully drawn novel from National Book Award–winning author Kimberly Willis Holt gradually unfolds a story of family love, overcoming tragedy, and an insightful girl learning to find her voice.
This title has Common Core connections.
When Tate Ellerbee's teacher tells her class to think about who they might choose for a pen pal assignment, the 11-year-old immediately knows who she will write to: Hank Williams, an up-and-coming country singer she and her guardians, Aunt Patty Cake and Uncle Jolly, listen to each week on a Saturday night radio show, Louisiana Hayride. In letters written over the course of the 1948 49 school year, Tate unspools her life story to Hank, first sharing the lies she's been telling herself, then reversing course with one hard truth after another. The last big reveal doesn't quite pack the emotional wallop it might, but Tate is a very entertaining letter writer, and Holt (the Piper Reed series) salts her letters with just enough detail about post-WWII America to make this more than just a story about a girl coming to terms with the bad hand she's been dealt. A redemptive ending helps redress the balance of a mostly tragic story told in a folksy voice. Ages 9 12.