HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Up a Road Slowly
Author: Irene Hunt
Original cover illustrator: Don Bolognese
Publisher: Berkley, republished 2003
Language level: 1
(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: For ages 12 and up, but I would say more like 14 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Hunt, Irene. Up a Road Slowly (published in 1966 by Follett Publishing Company, 1010 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607). Seven year old Julie Trelling, her nine year old brother Christopher, and her teenage sister Laura have just lost their mother. Their father Adam, a college professor, thinks that it is best for Julie and Chris to go and live five miles out in the country with their mother’s sister, Aunt Cordelia Bishop. Julie is so traumatized by her mother’s death that she has to be sedated on the way. The book follows Julie from the age of seven through her high school graduation. The never married Aunt Cordelia, who also teaches the local one room school, is not unkind, but she is firm and strict. There are happy days at Aunt Cordelia’s, playing with her brother in the big old family house, riding in the woods on her horse named Peter the Great, and her friendship with neighbor Danny Trevort.
However, there were sad times too—Chris’s going away to boarding school, the pain and jealousy which Julie felt after Laura’s marriage, the tragic death of a schoolmate, her father’s remarriage, and the bitter disappointment of her first love. How will the sensitive Julie respond to such problems as she comes of age? Can she and her aunt learn to get along? And what will become of the girl’s hopes and dreams? By the author of Across Five Aprils and No Promises in the Wind, this book won the Newbery award in 1967. There is no distasteful language or objectionable incidents besides references to the prom and the hint of a pregnant high school girl. One may not always appreciate Julie’s attitude, but she learns a lot from straight-laced Aunt Cordelia, including how to deal with the alcoholism of her Uncle Haskell and the mental illness of both a schoolmate and a neighbor’s wife.
One complaint was that the characterization of the young girl with intellectual disabilities is unfortunately dated so that some might now find it offensive, but there are some important underlying lessons taught by that episode. A second criticism was that the ending felt a bit rushed and forced, as all of a sudden Julie seems to jump in maturity, but still another reviewer noted that while it doesn’t have a lot of action or earth-shattering consequences, as most current novels seem to, it nonetheless holds interest well. Hunt does a wonderful job of detailing the ins and outs of complex human relationships with a great description of the maturating process of a girl. Many of Julie’s experiences are universal, but her advantage is that she is under the guidance of various understanding adults who deal with her patiently, compassionately, and honestly. The author also make a strong case for the importance of family and the continuity of life. The story would likely appeal mostly to teenage girls.