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The Paper Cowboy

Kristin Levine


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (10/27/2014)
Paperback (3/1/2016)
Prebound (3/1/2016)


Though he thinks of himself as a cowboy, Tommy is really a bully.  He's always playing cruel jokes on classmates or stealing from the store. But Tommy has a reason: life at home is tough. His abusive mother isn't well; in fact, she may be mentally ill, and his sister, Mary Lou, is in the hospital badly burned from doing a chore it was really Tommy's turn to do. To make amends, Tommy takes over Mary Lou's paper route. But the paper route also becomes the perfect way for Tommy to investigate his neighbors after stumbling across a copy of The Daily Worker, a communist newspaper.

Tommy is shocked to learn that one of his neighbors could be a communist, and soon fear of a communist in this tight-knit community takes hold of everyone when Tommy uses the paper to frame a storeowner, Mr. McKenzie. As Mr. McKenzie's business slowly falls apart and Mary Lou doesn't seem to get any better, Tommy's mother's abuse gets worse causing Tommy's bullying to spiral out of control.

Poignantly written, Kristin Levine proves herself a master of gripping and affecting historical fiction.

Praise For The Paper Cowboy


★ “A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “A thoughtful story about understanding and compassion, distinguished by complex characters and a supportive, tight-knit community.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “A sophisticated, powerful story about a community’s ability to help one another out, and the paper cowboy who helps bring them together.”—Booklist, starred review

“Tommy's struggle to bring his family together ends up bringing the whole community together. His journey is filled with many lessons for young readers and many historically accurate portrayals of life at that time... the lessons--acceptance of others, coming together to help others, forgiveness, and coping with mental illness--are well worth teaching.”—

“Levine deftly captures a time period filled with an overarching paranoia and small-town life filled with tensions on many levels.”—School Library Journal

“An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.”—Library Media Connection


“Creating a book that reads as though written in one effortless breath requires a rare talent… Readers will root for a painfully shy girl to discover the depths of her own courage and find hope in the notion that even in tumultuous times, standing up for the people you love can’t be wrong. Satisfying, gratifying, touching, weighty—this authentic piece of work has got soul.” —The New York Times Book Review

★ “[A] stunning piece of historical fiction.”—School Library Journal, starred review

★ “[A] riveting, frequently tense portrait of 1958 Little Rock.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “[A] quietly powerful page-turner.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review


★ “[An] energetic, seamlessly narrated first novel… Levine handles the setting with grace and nuance.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “This classic story of how unlikely persons can change things for the better should appeal to all readers.”—VOYA, starred review

G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 9780399163289, 352pp.

Publication Date: September 4, 2014

About the Author

Kristin Levine lives in Alexandria, VA with her two daughters. The Paper Cowboy is her third novel.