“My Louisisana Sky” is the story of a young girl, Tiger, growing up with developmentally disabled parents. Tiger has a hard enough time being an athletic tomboy who doesn’t quite fit in to any group without adding parents who don’t fit in at all to the story. She lives in a small home with her parents and grandmother. Her mother and father are both developmentally disabled, her mother due to a fall on her head and her father was simply born that way. Tiger loves her parents dearly, but as she grows into a young woman, realizes that her mother’s childishness which was so much fun when she herself was a girl, is now embarrassing. Her mother runs around barefoot playing hide and seek, loves to innertube and does household chores only reluctantly and under the guidance of her own mother, Tiger’s ‘Granny’. Her father is a man of very few words who nonetheless has been a steady employee at the local florist. Her glamorous aunt, Dorie Kay, away at an exciting job in the big city, is a frequent visitor to the home. The death of Granny throws this very tenuously put together family into total disarray. Momma won’t take care of herself, neglecting her basic needs in her grief. Her father is not able to pay even a simple bill no matter how hard Dorie Kay tries to teach him. Tiger ends up moving to the city with Dorie Kay, enjoying a new wardrobe, haircut, cleaning lady and beautiful room. Eventually, however, her feelings of responsibility for her family bring her back to her home with her parents.
This book gives a lesson with which not everyone would agree. The young girl, Tiger, makes a decision to move away from a capable relative who is caring for her properly, to move back in with her parents, both of whom are mentally disabled. She is not an adult daughter making the choice to come back and support her parents, but rather a 13 year old girl who is now going to be completely responsible not just for herself but for two adults as well. While seemingly a noble choice, I don’t know that it is the right choice. Many children feel like it is their responsibility to take on adult roles too soon, and that message is certainly the one that would be gotten from this book.
If I were to use this book, it would be for a middle school reading club.
Holt, Kimberly Willis My Louisiana Sky (1998) New York, Random House.
In this poignant adaptation of Holt’s debut novel, actress Ivey’s natural Southern twang goes down as smooth as “Momma’s extra-sweet lemondade.” Twelve-year-old Tiger Ann Parker finds herself going through some momentous changes in the summer following sixth grade. Though she fiercely loves and defends her parents–both of whom are mentally disabled, or “slow,” as Tiger prefers–Tiger harbors guilt about sometimes feeling embarrassed by Momma and Daddy. She’s also torn between playing baseball with her best pal, Jesse Wade, and sitting on the sidelines with the girls in pretty dresses. Luckily, she has her loving, pragmatic Granny at home to help her sort through the confusion. But when Granny suddenly dies from a snake bite, Tiger’s world turns upside down. In the weeks following Granny’s death, Tiger discovers how truly special her parents are and that she could never leave them or their tiny rural hometown of Saitter, La. Set in the 1950s, Holt’s story evokes an era on the cusp of technological and social change, when life was mostly simple, though larger problems like racial inequality loomed. Ivey portrays Tiger with the perfect mix of innocence and a sense of blossoming wisdom. Ivey’s other characterizations call on a range of colorful, though never overly affected, Southern cadences and inflections.
(1999). Publishers Weekly [Review of the book My Louisiana Sky]. Retrieved from http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-louisiana-sky-kimberly-willis-holt/1100353876?ean=9780312660956&itm=1&usri=my+louisiana+sky
In her first YA novel, Holt gives a fresh theme sensitive and deliberate treatment: The bright child of “slow” parents comes to terms with her family’s place in the community. Tiger Ann Parker is smart; she’s gotten straight A’s and won the spelling bee five years in a row. People in her rural 1950s Louisiana community can’t figure out where she got her brains, because everyone knows that her parents, are mentally challenged. Her mother has the capabilities of a six-year-old, while her father, a good steady worker at the nursery down the road, can’t manage writing or simple math. Tiger loves her parents, but as she enters middle school she becomes increasingly aware that she’s socially ostracized by her classmates; her affection for her family becomes mixed with shame and anger at their differences. When Tiger’s loving grandmother, who has always run the household, has a fatal heart attack, Tiger is invited to live with her glamorous Aunt Doreen in Baton Rouge. Tempted to move away and reinvent herself, Tiger ultimately comes to appreciate her parents’ strengths and her own as well. Tiger, with her warring feelings, is a believable and likable narrator, and while the offerings of big-city living are too patly rejected, a well-developed setting and fully-realized characters make this an unusually strong coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 10-14)