Down Sand Mountain

By Steve Watkins
(Candlewick Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780763638399, 327pp.)

Publication Date: October 2008

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In a tale full of humor and poignancy, a sheltered twelve-year-old boy comes of age in a small Florida mining town amid the changing mores of the 1960s.

It's 1966 and Dewey Turner is determined to start the school year right. No more being the brunt of every joke. No more "Deweyitis." But after he stains his face with shoe polish trying to mimic the popular Shoeshine Boy at the minstrel show, he begins seventh grade on an even lower rung, earning the nickname Sambo and being barred from the "whites only" bathroom. The only person willing to talk to him, besides his older brother, Wayne, is fellow outsider Darla Turkel, who wears her hair like Shirley Temple and sings and dances like her, too. Through their friendship, Dewey gains awareness of issues bigger than himself and bigger than his small town of Sand Mountain: issues like race and segregation, the reality of the Vietnam War, abuse, sexuality, and even death and grieving. Written in a riveting, authentic voice, at times light-hearted and humorous and at others devastating and lonely, this deeply affecting story will stay with readers long after the book is closed.

About the Author
Steve Watkins is the author of the novels Down Sand Mountain, which won a Golden Kite Award, and What Comes After. He is also the author of a nonfiction book and short-story collection for adults and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. About Juvie, he says, One of the few hopeful things about juvenile detention that I saw during my visits is all the reading that goes on there. No electronic devices are allowed, and there s limited TV time and access to video games, but there s a lot of reading. Ten hours a night is a long time alone in your cell. With a book, at least, you re not quite as alone, and reading can take you to other, better worlds. Steve Watkins is a retired professor of journalism, creative writing, and Vietnam War literature. He now spends his days teaching Ashtanga yoga, working with the child advocacy organization CASA, and writing books for young adults. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with his family.
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