Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

by on June 30th, 2015
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt Cover Image

Eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee needs to write to a pen pal for the school year and her teacher wants her class to choose a child from a school in Japan so they will get to know someone from a different country.  Some kids hesitate because this story is set in 1949 and World War II is still fresh in the minds of all.  Glimpses of the prejudice and anti-communist feelings are obvious.  Tate decides she wants to write to Hank Williams, an up-and-coming country and Western singer she’s heard on a Saturday night radio program each week with her family.  Although the story is told entirely via letters Tate writes to Mr. Williams (and his only response is sending autographed photographs), she is not deterred because he never writes back.  Once you get past the idea that Tate never gets any letters in return from the singer (I would have found a different pen pal who wanted to correspond with me!), the reader will enjoy the narrative. Her letters are almost journal entries as she tells about her day-to-day life practicing her singing for a talent show, laughing with uncle Jolly’s girlfriend, and cuddling with her dog.  Tate’s parents are absent and she lives with Aunt Patty Cake and her Uncle Jolly.  We later learn that her actress mother is serving time in prison because of a bad choice she made and her father is off supposedly taking photographs all over the world for his job. Tate has not been dealt a fair hand in life but she is still a positive and upbeat character who loves her caring aunt, funny uncle, and especially her dog, Lovie.  Her annoying brother, Frog, adds an important element to the story, especially in the surprise ending to the book.  As Tate continues writing to a complete stranger, her personality and outlook on life unfold revealing a very real character with spunk, humor, and hope for the future.  I love historical fiction and have enjoyed other books by Kimberly Willis Holt so this story was a great choice for me to read and be able to recommend to 4th-6th grade readers this summer.  A tender, and at times heartbreaking story, this book will surely take the reader on a memorable ride in a by-gone time.

Leave a Reply

Previous Post

Next Post