Cover image for Preacher's boy
Preacher's boy
Paterson, Katherine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
168 pages ; 22 cm
In 1899, ten-year-old Robbie, son of a preacher in a small Vermont town, gets himself into all kinds of trouble when decides to give up being Christian in order to make the most of his life before the end of the world.
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.2 7.0 34751.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.6 12 Quiz: 18896 Guided reading level: T.
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2013 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

It's 1899 in a small town in Vermont, and the turn of the century is coming fast. According to certain members of the church where Robbie's father is the preacher, the end of the century might even mean the end of the world. But Robbie has more pressing worries. He's sure his father loves his simple-minded brother, Elliot, better than him, and he can no longer endure the tiresome restrictions of Christianity. He decides to leave the fold and become an "apeist" and, just in case the church whisperers are right, resolves to live life to the fullest. His high-spirited and often hot-headed behavior does nothing to improve his father's opinion of him, nor does it improve the congregation's flagging opinion of his father. Not until the consequences of his actions hurt others does Robbie put a stop to the snowballing chain of events he has set off and begin to realize his father might love him despite his wayward tendencies.

Author Notes

Katherine Paterson was born in Qing Jiang, Jiangsu, China in 1932. She attended King College in Bristol, Tennessee and then graduate school in Virginia where she studied Bible and Christian education.

Before going to graduate school, she was a teacher for one year and after graduate school, she moved to Japan to be a missionary.

Her first book, Sign of the Chrysanthemum was published in 1991. Other titles to follow included The Bridge to Terabithia and Jacod Have I Loved which both won her a Newbery Award, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Lyddie and The Master Puppeteer.

In addition to the Newbery Award, she is the recipient of numerous others including the Scott O'Dell Award, the National Book Award for Children's Literature, the American Book Award, the American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults Award and the New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year Award. She was also honored with the Hans Christian Anderson Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-7. Paterson is arguably the premier author among children's book writers today, and Preacher's Boy is another in a long list of titles (but not so long as to dilute her talent) that shows why. In this story, she takes a serious philosophical topic--what God wants from us and what we want from God--and shapes its profundity with irony and wit. It is the turn of the twentieth century, and Robbie, son of a preacher, is tired of trying to please God. Moreover, although Robbie's father is kind and gentle, it's not that easy to do what he wants, either. So when a fire-and-brimstone minister suggests that the world may be ending soon, Robbie decides that whatever time is left will be more fun without God in the equation. Like Huckleberry Finn (of whom there are many overtones), Robbie is willing to take his chances with eternity for the opportunity to do what he wants. But before long, Robbie has put his mentally disabled brother in danger, almost choked another boy to death in a fury, and masterminded a harebrained kidnapping hoax that might result in a man's execution. At every turn, Paterson splendidly balances Robbie's moral choices with pure entertainment, especially as it twists the plot. And though there are a couple of stereotypical characters, including a dirty vagabond girl and her drunkard father, even they are elevated because Paterson writes about them with humor and compassion. As the public demands more books with moral issues at their core, here's one that envelops readers with its principled reflections, instead of pounding them over their heads. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia; Jacob Have I Loved) captures the essence of an adolescent's fundamental questions of God and existence in this finely honed novel. As the year 1899 draws to a close, the people in Robbie's rural Vermont community anticipate the coming of the 20th century with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Some fear that the end is near. Others, like Robbie's father, a minister with progressive ideas, thinks "the world's at a sort of beginning." Robbie does not know what to believe. Recently, he has begun to question God and the validity of the Ten Commandments. As the son of a preacher, he is expected to exhibit exemplary behavior, but he cannot seem to turn the other cheek to those who make fun of his "simple-minded" brother. In a fit of anger, Robbie comes dangerously close to drowning a boy and sets off a chain of irreversible events; he must rely on his conscience to lead him toward redemption. Once again placing universal conflict in a historical context, Paterson gives a compassionate, absorbing rendering of an adolescent boy trying to break free from social and religious constraints. Besides delving into the mind of the young rebel, she successfully evokes the climate of the times, showing how the townspeople respond to modern inventions, discoveries and ideas. The story contains a moral, but the author remains nearly invisible as she guides her characters through crises, then leaves them to fend for themselves at the dawn of a new era. Ages 10-14. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Paterson, so adept at capturing a sense of time and place, returns once again to mine the richness of small-town Vermont during the 19th century. Here, she reflects on the approach of the previous century as she follows the adventures of energetic, mischievous Robbie Hewitt, a preacher's son with a bit of a temper, from Decoration Day in May, 1899, to the eve of January 1, 1900. New ideas are circulating. Darwin's theory of evolution gets confused in Robbie's mind with atheism. When he decides that it is too hard to behave, that God is too hard to please, and that the world may end soon anyway, he declares himself an "apeist." Following a fight with his nemesis, he becomes involved with Violet, a poor homeless girl, and her alcoholic father, Zeb. While planning his own kidnapping for profit, he implicates Zeb, who is likely to hang for the crime. Robbie's own personal miracle from God, a ride in a motorcar, reaffirms him as a true believer. As in Jip (Dutton, 1996), Paterson tells a multilayered coming-of-age story of loyalty, courage, and the enduring values of family. With warmth, humor, and her powerful yet plain style, Paterson draws empathetic and memorable characters. Readers share the anticipation and the joy of Robbie and his father as they welcome the 20th century at the book's end.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.