PREACHER'S BOY opens at the end of one century and the beginning of another. Many people fear what could happen as the calendar changes; some of these people are looking to their priests and churches to show them the way. Not Robbie Hewitt, though; he is totally fed up with God and the Church. Vermont boy Robbie has reason to be so bitter: he is a preacher's kid and he's supposed to be a good example to others, all the time. Technically, all his siblings are the preacher's kids, too. However, nobody seems to care what THEY do. Robbie's older sister, a "lady-in-training," is a joy and delight to everybody but Robert. Nobody expects anything from his little five-year-old sister, and his older brother Elliot is simple-minded, so people treat him like a child, too. It's only Robert who is told, "Robbie, you of all people! And your father a minister!" He is constantly judged and punished and made to act like a saint. Why can't the church members and everyone else just leave Robbie alone?
Robbie thinks he is just like every boy his age and should be forgiven his scrapes and hijinks. The mayor's two sons, Tom and Ned are always messing around and doing pranks, but Tom and Ned seem to get away with it. For example, Ned and Tom hid a snake in the teacher's lunch pail. When Robbie and Willie run Mabel Cramm's bloomers up the flagpole on Decoration Day, they don't get caught, either. Robbie, however, is full of guilt and wishes he did get punished. Daily life for Robbie only gets more complicated and exasperating after the bloomer incident. His world seems so messed up, in fact, that Robbie decides to renounce his father and the Church, and no longer be a faithful Congregationalist. He decides that if God likes the kind of people who fill his father's church, let them be happy without him.
Robbie decides he's going to pack a lot of living into the six months before the new year. After all, a new century is coming, and if the world is coming to an end when the calendar turns to 1900, like some of the faithful Christians say, he doesn't want to have missed out on anything! The only problem is: where will his frantic search for real living take him? Will he really get to ride in one of those newfangled motorcars? Does God provide for boys who depart from the flock?
Set in 1899, PREACHER'S BOY is part caper and part morality play. While Robbie could be any young boy who bristles against his parent's authority, the period details are what gives Paterson's story its depth. The hero, Robbie, learns a lot about himself and the world. It's an engrossing and challenging story.
Reviewed by Tamara Penny on February 20, 2001
- Publication Date: October 22, 2013
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
- ISBN-10: 0544104900
- ISBN-13: 9780544104907