Reviews for Kindred Souls

Booklist Reviews 2012 January #1
Jake enjoys his daily walk around the family farm with Billy, his grandfather and "kindred soul." As they stop by the mud-and-prairie-grass remnants of the soddy where Billy was born, he often remarks, "I loved that sod house." One day he says, "I miss that sod house," and finally, after Jake asks an idle question about cutting sod for bricks, Billy declares, "You can build me a sod house." When Billy falls ill and is hospitalized, Jake overcomes his strong reluctance to build a soddy. His family pitches in and readies the little building for Billy's return. The more Jake remarks that 88-year-old Billy "will live forever," the more astute readers can be that the end is near. Printed in large type with wide-spaced lines, the first-person story, with its short sentences and nuanced observations, focuses primarily on Billy's preparations for death, as told from Jake's point of view. Though its subject may limit its appeal, MacLachlan writes with clarity of purpose. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
MacLachlan traces the story of ten-year-old Jake's relationship with his grandfather, Billy. This is a farming family, and Billy, aged eighty-eight, still lives on the land where he was born. The story addresses time-sculpted themes--the bond between a child and a grandparent, death and connection to the natural world--and MacLachlan gives them her particular stamp of plain speaking and poetry.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
In seventeen short chapters MacLachlan traces the final act in the story of ten-year-old Jake's relationship with his grandfather, Billy. This is a farming family and Billy, aged eighty-eight, still lives on the land where he was born. All is predictable, benign, idyllic -- hummingbirds and new baby calves, shared chores and family jokes. The first sign that change is afoot comes in the mysterious arrival of a stray dog, a dog that glues herself to Billy. Shortly after this arrival, Billy falls ill, and Jake decides to build a sod house for his grandfather, to welcome him home from the hospital, to remind him of the sod house of his childhood. The whole family gets involved, and they finish the construction just in time for Billy's return. It turns out, however, that the sod house was not to be the place for Billy to live, but rather the place where he could die. The touch of magic hangs in the air as the dog disappears and we hear a rumor of a stray dog turning up at the home of an ailing woman in the next town. These are time-sculpted themes -- the bond between a child and a grandparent, a child's first experience of death, the comfort of continuity and connection to the natural world -- and MacLachlan gives them her particular stamp of plain speaking and poetry. sarah ellis

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
This spare first-person account of a boy coping with his grandfather's death beautifully portrays something rare and surprisingly valuable: the opportunity to grieve for a loved one even while he is still alive. Jake and 88-year-old Billy are "kindred souls." They live on a farm that their family has owned for generations; in fact, Billy was born in a sod house he remembers fondly, the ruins of which still exist on the property. This is an intense, rewarding read: Readers see Billy directly through Jake's young eyes; there is no omniscient voice explaining that Billy is reaching the end of his days, and that's why he is sometimes childlike himself. Some may realize the inevitable early on; Jake's mistaken confidence in Billy's immortality--"I don't worry about him dying. He will live forever. I know that," and "And Billy is going to live forever," are representative thoughts--foreshadows the inevitable. Jake and his siblings undertake a remarkably ambitious project: They rebuild the sod house; Billy moves into it, and he eventually passes away there. The joy the children take in the effort, along with the knowledge that they have enabled someone they love to finish out his days at peace--at home--comforts. It's rare to find a children's book that deals so well with death as part of life, offering kids an effective approach to coping with sadness that incorporates humor, love and joy. (Fiction. 8-11) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #2

With her signature spare precision, MacLachlan (Word After Word After Word) crafts a standout portrait of a child-grandparent relationship, set on a family farm. "Billy is eighty-eight years old, and I don't worry about him dying," says 10-year-old narrator Jake. "He will live forever. I know that." When irrepressible Billy nostalgically longs for a sod house, like the one he lived in as a child, MacLachlan skillfully stages Jake and the family's reaction to this wish. Jake initially balks, then researches how to create a sod house, enlisting the entire family for help after Billy falls ill. The narrative offers a strong sense of place and family, with touches of the miraculous, such as "angel dog" Lucy, who arrives unexpectedly, bonding with Billy, and cheering him. The cycles of birth and death persist on the farm and gently foreshadow the inevitable mortality of its patriarch. MacLachlan handles a familiar theme with grace, providing a lens into an uncanny intergenerational bond, as well as the kindness and generosity of love. Ages 7-10. Agent: East West Literary Agency. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 April

Gr 3-5--Ten-year-old Jake lives on a farm with his parents, siblings, and grandfather, Billy. The special bond between Jake and Billy causes the boy to believe that his grandfather will live forever. When Billy expresses an interest in seeing his old sod childhood home rebuilt, Jake is confused and reticent to learn how to help with the one thing his grandfather seems to want most. Yet when Billy becomes ill and must be hospitalized, the family members decide to fulfill his request and surprise him when he comes home. MacLachlan gracefully eases readers into the inevitability of life's natural cycles. She includes a mysterious "angel dog" (a stray) arriving on the scene and immediately latching on to Billy, seemingly sensing his coming death. In typical MacLachlan fashion, the strength of family is the springboard from which the plot takes form. Whether this book is used as bibliotherapy, as a read-aloud in the classroom, or for pure reader enjoyment, it will be a welcome addition to any collection.--D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

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