Audience: 11 and up
Review: Caroline Cooney’s The Lost Songs is a book newly on the market, just released in October 2011. Cooney interwines four teens’ narratives into one beautiful story of self-discovery and hope. This modern-day story’s main protagonist is Lutie Painter, an African-American teen with a precious heirloom, hundreds of songs passed down from her great-grandmother and never written down. Now, an expert in music and professor is trying to do anything he can to “get his hands on” these “lost songs.” On the surface, this appears to be the main conflict in the novel, but as the reader delves deeper into this story, they quickly see that this is a story of living with integrity, of believing in the best in people, of each person’s responsibility to each other, and of the importance of community.
Caroline Cooney begins each chapter with four short sentences that are ambiguous but at the same time give you a preview of what will happen in the chapter. It almost reminded me of the segments on television which start with the words “Coming up next…” Each and every time I finished a chapter planning on putting this book down, the next “chapter preview” hooked me in. This was an excellent and easy to read book which teaches valuable lessons without ever sounding “preachy.”
Book Flap Description: The day Lutie Painter takes the city bus north instead of the school bus west, cutting class for the first time ever, her aunt and uncle have no idea what she is up to. They cannot prevent her from riding into danger.
That same morning, Lutie’s pastor, Miss Veola, whispers as always, “This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
A block from Miss Veola and up a hill in Chalk, Train Greene, thin and hungry, burns with anger. He has a decision to make, and he’s running out of time.
A few miles away, among finer houses, Kelvin Hartley yawns and gets ready for another day at school, where he is a friend to all and makes an effort at nothing.
And Doria Bell, who recently moved to the South from Connecticut, walks to the bus stop, hoping the high school kids who live nearby will say hello.
All of these lives intertwine and—in surprising ways—become connected to Lutie’s ancestors, who are buried in the cemetery in Chalk. Who would have dreamed that the long-dead Mabel Painter, who passed down the Laundry List songs to her great-great-granddaughter Lutie, had passed along a piece of American history that speaks to so many who feel lost and need hope. Big changes are in store for all, and things will never be the same.
In this luminous novel, Caroline B. Cooney delves deeply into a Southern community. Cooney reveals the comfort, inspiration, and hope its members draw from the power of faith, the glory of music, and the meaning of family.
To read an excerpt: Go to amazon.com