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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

The Brother’s Story

I’ve been running (or getting someone else to run :), thanks Sharon ) a live Mock Newbery discussion in Oakland CA since 2003. Predicting the "winners" has never been the main point for me…it’s the experience of the process, and the sharing of that experience. But when our Mock winners correlate with the actual ones, I can’t pretend I’m not chuffed…and I’ll brag that this group does seem to have a pretty good track record.  

That is, except for 2006. The Lucky Scrotum Year.

That was the first year I ran a blog alongside the live discussion, so you can browse Nina’s Newbery if you need a refresher on what were some of the strongest books (from my point of view) that year. Our winner? A Drowned Maiden’s Hair.  Our Honor Books: Alabama Moon, The King of Attolia, and A True and Faithful Narrative.

I am a Katherine Sturtevant fan, and thought that A True and Faithful Narrative really had a chance that year.  So when I recently saw her name on this otherwise awful cover:

I dove right in. Sure enough: nothing romantic about this story, as the cover wants to suggest. Just immediately gripping characters in a vividly real historical setting–and what a bleak beginning: frozen babies, a mother abandoning her older children and a brother turning to abandon his "simple" twin brother, in order to seek a different future in London Town.

I don’t think this is Sturtevant’s strongest work.  There’s a few different competing arcs: the London plot arc within the "Brother’s Story" emotional arc…and the historical setting itself seems to be an arc, or even a character, and almost overtakes the others in places.  However, Sturtevant is such a writer–of high and unique talent–that this still stands out among the strong contributions to children’s literature this year.  

Anyone else read it?

Nina Lindsay About Nina Lindsay

Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at


  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I never read A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE because my copy, along with DREAMHUNTER, got lost in the mail. That was the wrong package to lose, let me tell you!

    But I picked this one up several times due to the enthusiasm of many friends, but I haven’t been able to sustain my interest beyond a couple of pages. The cover is horribly wretched, and that’s not helping much. Here’s hoping your recommendation gives me the impetus to follow through this time.

  2. Monica Edinger says:

    Like you I adored, adored A True and Faithful Narrative and had hoped it would get some award recognition its year. As a result I too was very eager to read this one. I started it and, like you, was immediately impressed with the historical details; as you note, it is definitely not a romantic view of things, not at all. But I have to also admit that the characters and the plot did not engage me the way ATAFN did and I put it down a third the way in meaning to get back to finish it. Thanks for this reminder to do so!

  3. I loved A True and Faithful Narrative, so I’ll pick this one up as soon as someone orders it for my county – but gosh, if I hadn’t already read her other books, I wouldn’t touch that cover!

  4. Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson says:

    What I loved about The Brothers Story, aside from Katherine Sturtevant’s usual magnificent writing, is how it set me down kerplunk in a place I had never been and could barely imagine. I might have read about the later 1600’s before but never have I experienced that period in quite the same way. I was there, vividly alive! And I was a fifteen-year old boy, who, as awkward and horny and full of yearning to prove himself as any modern 15 year-old, faced challenges–such as freezing to death or starving–that frightened and stunned me, living as I do in my soft 21st century life.

    Also handled beautifully were the moral challenges young Kit faced, in an era where sex outside of marriage could mean a disasterous tumble down the social ladder to hunger and want, and even death from veneral disease. Women then were treated as second- or third-class citizens, and Kit finds himself staring down the consequences of his sexual desire–not only the consequences for himself but for the girl he favors.

    Don’t like the cover? Take it off. Worried about whether this is Katherine Sturtevant’s best book or not? Relax. Just enjoy a splendid story beautifully told.

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