Chernoff, M. (1999). A Boy in Winter (1st edition.). New York: Crown.
Plot Summary: Danny and his mother Nancy are finally on the road to happiness. They have moved into a wonderful old house in a great neighborhood where they plan to live happily after. When Eddie, the rambunctious next door neighbor, appears on their first day in the new house, Danny also gets a brand new best friend. As the boys’ friendship grows in closeness, so does that of Nancy and Eddie’s father, Frank. What began as a neighborly friendship has turned into a deep romantic fair. One day, Eddie brings his father’s hunting bow over to show it off to Danny. It one moment, life for Danny changes forever when he accidentally shoots and kills Eddie with the weapon. As Chernoff allows the reader to see the event and everything that takes place afterward through the eyes of Nancy, Danny, and Frank, the full extent of the implications of one mistake are made terribly clear.
Critical Evaluation: This book will allow teen readers to reflect on the reality behind stories that they see on the evening news. While they are bombarded with reports of school shootings, domestic abuse and accidental deaths in the home, they are rarely privy to the impact of violence, whether intentional or not, in the lives of the families involved. Taking the unusual path of exploring the inner-turmoil of the shooter, Chernoff forces the reader to consider every side of the story, and in turn encourages them to do the same when reading the sensationalized version of the news they are generally fed. Chernoff reserves judgement, allowing the reader to take stock of their own preconceptions and prejudices. Writing with clear compassion for her characters, Chernoff allows the raw emotion and pain of the story to leap off the page. Her characters are written with such subtlety and care that the reader recognizes their soft and vulnerable inner-workings. Teen readers will appreciate the lack of sentimentality and absence of preaching in Chernoff’s emotionally charged narrative.
Reader’s Annotation: When Danny accidentally shots his best friend Eddie with a hunting bow, his life is thrown into turmoil. Struggling with feelings of guilt and confusion, Danny and his mother must learn how to forgive themselves and make sense of their new reality.
Author Information: “Born and raised in Chicago, Maxine Chernoff earned a BA and an MA from the University of Illinois. Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry in 2006, Chernoff, in an innovative, post-modern approach, often utilizes prose forms. Her collections of poetry include A Vegetable Emergency (1977); Utopia TV Store: prose poems (1979); New Faces of 1952 (1985), winner of the Carl Sandburg Award; Leap Year Day: New and Selected Poems (1990); and World: Poems 1991–2001 (2001).
Chernoff’s poems can be surreal, witty, and politically engaged. In a review of World for Jacket Magazine, Rachel Loden found that “wit cuts in and out of the melodic surge and flow” of the volume. Chernoff references Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz and employs epigraphs from Ralph Waldo Emerson in one section, prompting Loden to note “the impressionistic structures of these poems, their hops and skips across a rippling surface that suggests the freedoms and pleasures of hypertext.”
Chernoff has also written fiction, and her short story collection Signs of Devotion was a New York Times Notable Book in 1993. Her translations, with Paul Hoover, of the work of Friedrich Hölderlin won the PEN Center USA Translation Award.
She is an editor of the journal New American Writing and a professor at San Francisco State University.”
Maxine Chernoff : The Poetry Foundation
. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/maxine-chernoff
Genre: Realistic fiction
Curriculum Ties: Juvenile crime, Psychology, Grief
Booktalk Ideas: What if this happened to you?, Guilty or Innocent, A mother’s love
Reading Level/Interest Level: Grade 10/Grades 9 and up
Challenge Issues and Plans: This book references gun violence and an extra-marital affair.
If this book was challenged in my library:
- I would ensure that I am familiar with the material, including any part that might cause concern to parents/patrons.
- I would actively listen to the concerns of the parent/patron in an effort to fully understand their point of view. I would ask clarifying questions and avoid any judgmental language.
- I would offer my reasons for including the material in a non-confrontational but matter-of-fact manner.
- I would offer a list of reviews and awards that informed my decision to add the material to the collection.
- I would draw the parent/patron’s attention to ALA’s Library Bill of Right.
- I would have handy for perusal my library’s collection policy.
- If the parent/patron wished to continue with the challenge, I would offer an official challenge form that would be submitted to the library’s (or school’s) board of directors.