HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Boy on Shady Grove Road: A Childhood of the 1940s and 50s in the South
Author: Clyde McCulley
Publisher: Story Night Press, 2016
Related website(s): http://www.storynightpress.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(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 13 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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McCulley, Clyde. The Boy on Shady Grove Road: A Childhood of the 1940s and 50s in the South (published in 2017 by Story Night Press, Portland, ME). Artist and author Clyde McCulley was born in 1941, on a small farm in a little four room house on Shady Grove Road in the rural Congo community near Benton, Arkansas, about halfway between Little Rock and Hot Springs, the last of six kids born to a father, sixty years old, and a mother of forty. His parents and older siblings had moved there from Memphis, TN, a year before when Daddy lost his job due to the Depression. Three years after his birth, Clyde’s oldest sister Lucy, who was married but widowed shortly afterwards, had a son named Kenny, and they moved nearby. McCulley explores in memory his humble but adventurous childhood from ages six to twelve with his faithful sidekick Kenny in rural Arkansas in the 1940s and 50s through a series of anecdotes about family life, growing up not poor but just a little “short of cash,” school days, religious upbringing, the town, the community, various adventures, moneymaking schemes, his artistic beginnings, and the “colored situation.” An epilogue chronicles his life since then.
In addition to a few common euphemisms, several references to “peeing” occur and a few of the adults do use a little cursing, profanity, and other bad language. Also there are references to drinking beer and moonshine and to using snuff and other forms of tobacco. But McCulley’s juvenile innocence and sense of wonder, related in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner, capture universal experiences of childhood. Both factual and entertaining, it is a nostalgic look at “how things used to be” long ago when children were free to enjoy the simple pleasures of life by playing in the woods before the days of computers and video games. This isn’t all sugary-sweet as some difficult times and hard issues are addressed, but the tough, cheerful attitudes displayed certainly deserve admiration.
The biggest complaint which I saw was that there seemed to be no “flow” to the book. One critic wrote that “the lack of chronological sequence was disturbing.” What’s so disturbing about that? Now, if there were stories about raping area girls, poisoning neighbor’s dogs, or using a shotgun to snipe at passers-by, that would be disturbing. Perhaps a lack of chronological order might be a little confusing to some, but not disturbing. Other authors have chosen to present biographical or autobiographical material with accounts grouped by subject matter rather than strict chronological narrative. McCulley himself explained why he did this. “The stories are not written in an orderly, chronological manner, but rather at random as I remember them. I want the book to be opened to any page and still make sense to the reader without knowing what came before or comes after.” This is an easy read.