Something to Hold
This absorbing children’s novel by Katherine Schlick Noe is based strongly on the author’s own experiences. Like Noe, eleven-year-old Kitty has just moved to an Indian reservation in Oregon. She and her family, which includes an older and younger brother, have moved around a lot because of her father’s government job. When they arrive in Warm Springs, it is the summer of 1962. Kitty is nervous about the start of school, not only because she is the new kid but because she is one of the few white children living on the reservation and attending the school. Gradually, though, Kitty makes friends, though there are two aloof children, Jewel and Raymond, with whom she can’t seem to break down the friendship barrier. When she learns that their stepfather is abusing them, Kitty has to make a grown-up decision. Also, a frightening scene towards book’s end showcases the real dangers of forest fires.
The book touches upon many themes that middle-grade readers may be able to connect with even today: feelings of isolation, how to handle bullies, and racism. And while it can be a scary topic, the author handles the underlying storyline about child abuse quite appropriately for the age group. Many colorful Native American cultural traditions and phrases are lovingly incorporated into the book, making it not only an enjoyable book for most ages but a learning experience as well.
Kitty is a good role model/heroine particularly for female readers; she speaks her mind and speaks up for injustice, even when she is scared of the consequences.