Theodore Roosevelt
Letters From a
Young Coal Miner.

Veggie Soup
"A delightful book . . . A good storytime selection." —School Library Journal, October 2000

Back to Main

Written by Dia Calhoun
Illustrated by Hervé Blondon

Kliatt, 7/1/2001
"Fantasies with classic themes are often the most satisfactory YA literature. This first novel by Calhoun succeeds on many levels. Calhoun herself is a resident of the Northwest, and a strong sense of place is one of the most important strengths of the story, as is the dichotomoy between the lowlands and the mountains. Into this realistically described place, Calhoun puts warring tribes identified by their enemies as the dirtdwellers, who live below and farm, and the barbarians of the mountains, who tame horses and hunt. The prejudice and outright hatred between these people fuel the stuff of this fantasy. The main character is a boy born below, who suffers fiercely because he has blue eyes, a characteristic of the mountain people. After blight strikes the farms, hatred towards Jonathan intensifies, and he strikes out to learn more about his heritage. Later, as he lives with theh barbarians high in the mountains and experiences the equivalent of a vision quest the truth about him and his purpose in life becomes clearer. Jonanthan is an appealing hero, and his plight is gripping. His crushes, rivalries, ambivalent feelings toward his parents, and fears of his own failure all ring true and drive the reader on in this fantasy adventure."

The Best Children's Books of the Year, Children's Book Committee, Bank Street College of Education, 1/1/2000
"Rejected by his father's people, Jonathon flees to his mother's mysterious mountain tribe for an explanation of his past."

Booklist, starred review, 5/1/1999
"The brown-eyed Valley folk both fear and loathe thirteen-year-old Jonathon Brae; he is a ‘loony-blue,' and everyone knows blue eyes are an abomination and will drive a boy insane when he reaches adulthood. Jonathon is sure the process has begun early. His head aches. His mind is filled with a compelling, dizzying drumming. He is driven to leave his beloved parents and the peace of the orchards to explore the ominous Red Mountains, home to the Dalriadas, fearsome barbarians. If that weren't enough, Jonathon is plagued by peculiar raised welts on his forehead that grow larger and itch more with each passing day. When the ‘loony-blue' is accused of bringing the blight that destroys the Valley's prized orchards, Jonathon must leave or be killed, and he follows his odd visions into the Red Mountains.

"Jonathon is a finely crafted and immensely sympathetic character who draws the reader into his adventures in self-discovery. The plot and underlying theme are effectively delivered through opposing forces that create a satisfying overall symmetry. The conflicts are clear: a young man's difference threatens a community that relies on conformity; the Brae family's open-minded intelligence battles the valley folks' narrow-minded ignorance; the agrarian Valley people fear the nomadic mountain people and in return are held in disdain. In the end, opposites are carefully knit together through the legendary firegold apples. . . . Calhoun's rich and complex first novel for teens mixes fantasy, adventure, and coming-of-age."