Monday, November 26, 2007

Cuss - A Review

I had never heard of this book before I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Kristine Franklin's personal blog but I am thankful now that I did. Kristine is a truly talented writer. Her tale drew me in within the first few pages and it was glued to my hand until I was finished. Her story was originally published under the title Grape Thief, but thankfully, Kristine was able to persuade the publishers to change the title of the paperback edition to the title she originally chose. It certainly grabs your attention, doesn't it?

She tells the story of a young man growing up in Roslyn, Washington in 1925 who is a gifted student, but from a very poor family of miners. Slava Petrovich, nicknamed "Cuss" because of his fluency in the, ahem... colorful metaphors of 14 different languages, is a twelve year old boy who is only concerned with making mischief with his best friends and staying in school until the seventh grade. His life takes a drastic turn when his older brothers have to leave to evade trouble and he is forced out of childhood and into adult responsibilities before he is ready for them.

I have no credentials to recommend me as a reviewer except that I have a 9 year old son who devours books while I am treading pages desperately trying to stay ahead of him. I also know what I like and I liked this book. It reminded me of some of the stories I use to hear my grandpa tell which isn't surprising since Kristine says, "Cuss is a fictional boy who originated in stories my father told me about growing up in Roslyn".

I think any child, especially boys, will also enjoy this story although it is recommended for ages 10-13. I initially thought I would wait a little longer before letting The Professor read it. Being a homeschooled boy, he's a little more sheltered from the ways of rough and tumble boys and might not understand some of the story's nuances. While there are no actual curse words in this book, there is some coarse language and a few scenes that might not appeal to a more sensitive child like mine. None of it is uncalled for or shocking; this was a rougher time after all. After letting Husband read the book, he feels as though The Professor is mature enough to handle it and in fact, would probably *really enjoy it. This is why I always run things by him. I tend to be more cautious and overprotective and he is more realistic and thoughtful without being reckless or carefree. We balance nicely!

I would highly recommend CUSS to my fellow home educators. I could easily see this story included in any unit study on historical fiction, Washington State history, the 1920's, immigrant families, coal mining, Latin or even Prohibition.

Kristine told me that although this book was published by a secular publisher, it is her most Catholic book and I would agree. The character of Fr. Duval is an excellent priestly role model and faith plays such an important part of these people's lives. The lessons in this book are timeless and could inspire a whole host of thoughtful conversations between you and the young adult you find yourself sharing it with.

*I have to update this even before I hit the publish button. The Professor finished the book last night and declared it "really good" . There are only two dog-eared pages which means he only stopped twice while reading, a sure sign that he couldn't put it down (since I know for a fact one of those ears was folded Saturday night when we insisted on lights out). He has already discussed Prohibition, mafias and Carrie Nation with Husband. I'm thinking History is covered for this week!


  1. wow. That sounds good. I'll have to add it to my list. Thanks for the review.

  2. Awesome! Always looking. Thanks for the recommendation. &:o)

  3. Thank you for the nice reivew! And I'm very glad Hubby voted to let the Prof read it. It is DEFINITELY a "boys book!"

  4. Oh, Charlotte! I'm so glad I found this review! I had seen this book somewhere in some catalog a while back and was very tempted then to purchase it or find it at the library, but like a lot of things I see and don't write down it was quickly forgotten. The reason it caught my eye was because of the main character. My maternal grandfather is Croatian, was born in the twenties and lived in a mining community. His father was a miner and he was a miner himself for many years as well.

    I think this was just the reminder I needed. Thanks!


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