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All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky

Review

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky

The Depression grips the entire country in suffering and despair, while Oklahoma sits in a massive dust storm. Most of Jack Catcher’s young life has been bleak and barren, though he does remember occasions of full bellies and laughter. But those haven’t happened in quite a long time. And now the Depression finally strikes a fatal blow to Jack’s life when his mother dies of sickness and his father gives up and commits suicide. For a short second, Jack considers following his father’s lead, but he quickly pushes that thought away. Jack doesn’t want to give up; he wants to plow ahead and find a brighter future filled with hope. Unfortunately, he’s not quite sure how to find that future.

Two people then stumble back into Jack’s life. He hadn’t seen Jane or her little brother, Tony, since the school closed. They are also orphaned, starving and looking for a new beginning. Jane has a bit of an attitude and a tongue prone to spinning tall tales. But she also has a plan --- she proposes that the three of them steal their dead neighbor’s car and head to East Texas where her aunt and uncle live. Of course, she’s lying about those relatives, but they set out for Texas, thankful or a destination and some hope in their hearts.

It doesn’t take long for them to run into more trouble. A blown tire sends them to the side of the road, and before they can even attempt to fix it, three gangsters drive by and take them for hostages. This sets off a dangerous and heart-pounding adventure, including jumping on trains, crawling through a grasshopper swarm, evading bullets, swimming with crocodiles and venomous snakes, and running from the law.

Joe R. Lansdale has won numerous awards for his writings, and now he branches off with his first book for young adults. Bearing a bit of a resemblance to the famous Mark Twain, Lansdale’s writing style will leave a big impression. He uses wonderful analogies, vivid imagery, and a regional dialect that will pull readers into the very pit of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. A clever sense of humor and a slice of irony here and there lighten the mood just enough, while disguised words of wisdom are hidden in the nonstop action. The main character is very likable. Jack has a huge heart and immense courage. His growing friendship and affection for the feisty Jane is heartwarming, as is his continual outreach for camaraderie and his quest to do the right thing.

This historical adventure is a winner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lands Lansdale even more awards.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on November 7, 2011

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky
by Joe R. Lansdale

  • Publication Date: September 13, 2011
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385739311
  • ISBN-13: 9780385739313