HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Swygert: Growing Up in the Middle of Nowhere in a Little Town Nobody Ever Heard Of
Author: Jeffrey Harold Utterback
Cover Illustrator: Alyson Utterback
Publisher: iUniverse, 2011
Related website: http://www.iuniverse.com (publisher)
Language level: 3 (barely)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Utterback, Jeffrey Harold. Swygert: Growing Up in the Middle of Nowhere in a Little Town Nobody Ever Heard Of (published in 2011 by iUniverse, 1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, IN 47403). Author Jeffrey Harold Utterback grew up during the 1960s and 70s in Swygert, IL, a small, Midwestern town consisting of eight houses, a cemetery, a junkyard, and a grain elevator, with a population of 35, located near Pontiac. This book is a humorous collection of autobiographical essays. There is no well-defined plot. The stories are true, but Utterback took certain liberties to embellish them and to fill holes in his memory. No attempt was made to indicate the chronological passage of time. Jeffrey lived with his dad, who worked at a printing factory in Pontiac, mom, older sisters Debbie, Joyce, and Jeny, and younger sister Laura. He writes about his family, friends and neighbors, school, listening to radio, learning to play chess, bicycle riding, watching television, 4-H Club, and “The Little Yellow Motorcycle,” among other things.
I picked this book up at a museum gift shop when we stopped in Pontiac while on a trip earlier this year. It appealed to me because I too grew up in a small Midwestern town of less than 100 people, so, although it was in Ohio during the 1950s and 60s, many of my experiences were very similar to Utterback’s (except we never had a motorcycle and I skipped 4-H). There are some common euphemisms and a little childish slang. The “h” word is used about three times, and Dad smokes a cigar. Otherwise, the book is a very pleasant reminiscence of a much simpler time in our society’s recent past. Utterback summarized his childhood, saying, “My parents didn’t see danger lurking around every corner, so my sisters and I were allowed vast amounts of freedom to learn and discover on our own.” Yep, I remember that too.