Cover image for The legacy of Gloria Russell
The legacy of Gloria Russell
Gilbert, Sheri L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2004.
Physical Description:
218 pages ; 22 cm
Twelve-year-old Billy James tries to come to terms with the sudden death of his best friend and learns about himself, his own family history, and life in his small hometown in the Ozark mountains.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG+ 4.6 8.0 79052.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A poignant debut novel about a boy's struggle with the loss of his best friend and the truth about his small town's ostracism of a lonely stranger. From the moment she touched Satan, my best friend Gloria Russell was never the same. Since the sudden death of his best friend, Billy's tiny hometown has never seemed lonelier. Gloria wasn't like anyone else in Kelseyville. Full of curiosity and spunk, she never cared what other people thought. But the day she befriended Satan a hermit every kid in Kelseyville is warned to avoid something happened to Gloria. And a few months later, she was gone. Alone, confused, and struggling to escape conflicts in his own family, Billy sets out to discover what really happened to Gloria. And guided by Gloria's strength, he begins to understand what the truth about Satan means for himself and his town.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-7. Stay clear of Satan, warn the adults in 12-year-old Billy James' small Ozarks town. They aren't referring to the biblical figure but rather to a recluse with an unfortunate eastern European last name. When Billy James' best friend, Gloria, dies not long after befriending the ostracized Satan, Billy James himself is drawn to the hermit, as much in tribute to his friend as out of morbid curiosity: Have the rumors of Satan's cursed touch been true all along? A family crisis converges with Billy James' deepening relationship with Satan--who turns out to be a talented woodcarver with the soul of a philosopher--to bring the town's prejudices to a head. It's up to Billy James to unravel the tangle of secrets and half-truths about Satan that have been allowed to fester for decades. While Gilbert's characters and situations feel a bit familiar, Billy James' grief over the loss of his friend is palpable, and young readers will admire his determination to honor the memory of the freckle-faced girl with a crooked grin and a fierce spirit. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"From the moment she touched Satan, Gloria Russell was never the same," begins this impressive first novel, narrated by Gloria's best friend, 12-year-old Billy James Wilkins. The "Satan" to which he refers is Josef Satan, a man who lives up on the mountain, not far from Billy James's Gram. Gilbert's novel is set in the present, but her themes of children whiling away an afternoon fishing for tadpoles and townsfolk nursing generations-old grudges contribute to the feeling that time has forgotten this small town. A quiet mystery unfolds as the boy describes his sense of abandonment when Gloria began spending time with Mr. Satan, and his sense of loss after her death. Readers will quickly adopt his no-nonsense take on things as he attempts to understand his best friend's death and the history of the town's prejudice against Mr. Satan. The author wisely leaves some things to readers' imaginations; she hints at a childhood connection between Mr. Satan and Gloria's mother, for instance, and indicates that Gloria may have been wiser than Billy James in some ways, but that he has talents of his own. The skillful prose underscores a world of too-cozy neighbors ("I wondered how Satan could ever fit into a puzzle of a town that only had room for pieces with comfortable edges," Billy James observes). Billy James's growing relationships with both Gram and Mr. Satan develop so subtly that perhaps only at the conclusion will readers realize how fluidly the author has conveyed the hero's maturation and the many ways in which Gloria's legacy has affected him. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-Three weeks after his best friend dies of an aneurysm, 12-year-old Billy James Wilkins tries to assuage his grief by understanding Gloria's recent friendship with the town hermit and the resulting change in her. Is Josef Satan, shunned by the people in Kelseyville, MO, in some way responsible for her death? Children are warned to ignore him, and especially warned not to touch him. Spunky, curious Gloria did just that, and even befriended him. Three months later she is dead. When the hill that Satan's cabin sits on begins slipping in the rain, the men in the community refuse to help him. Billy, with his knack for fixing things, offers his aid. Together they build a wall and a friendship. When Satan's cabin is burned to the ground, Billy convinces some people to help rebuild it. In return, the nonjudgmental Satan spends time with the fatherless Billy, teaching him to carve figures in wood and to realize the strength of one's individuality, the power of community, and the need to accept others. Billy not only matures in the course of this novel, but also has a spiritual awakening, realizing that he has had the help of a hand greater than his own in fixing things. This lyrically written debut novel is reminiscent of Ruth White's novels of Appalachia.-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.