Book: Cousins

Author: Virginia Hamilton

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks, republished 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0399221644 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0399221646 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 9780590454360 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0590454366 Paperback

Language level: 2

(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 10 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

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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Hamilton, Virginia.  Cousins (published in 1990 by Philomel Books, a division of The Putnam and Grosset Book Group, 200 Madison Ave., New York City, NY  10016; republished in 1992 by Apple Paperbacks, a trademark of Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  Eleven year old Camilla (Cammy) lives with her mother Maylene and her sixteen year old brother Andrew.  Her mom and dad are divorced, but Andrew works for their father.  Cammy’s grandfather Emmet, whom she called Gramper Em-un-Ems, is dead, and her 94 year old grandmother, Gram Tut, is mostly bedridden in the Care home.  Maylene’s wealthy sister, Cammy’s Aunt Effie Lee, lives nearby with her husband Uncle Earl, and their two children Patricia (Patty) Ann and Richie.  Cammy loves her family.  Concerned that her grandmother may die, she enjoys visiting Gram Tut in the Care as often as possible.

However, Cammy does not like her cousin Patty Ann, who has perfect hair, plays the piano well, gets excellent grades in school, and is generally a “Miss Goody-goody,” yet never visits their grandmother.  One day at summer camp, Cammy is unprepared for what she sees as she watches while Patty Ann rescues another cousin, Elodie, from the swollen Little River but is accidentally drowned in the process.  Cammy blames herself for having disliked her cousin.  How do her family and friends react?  What will Cammy do?  Can she ever find peace?  I first became familiar with author Virginia Hamilton when we lived in Dayton, OH, and read her two books in the “Dies Drear Chronicles,” The House of Dies Drear (1968) and The Mystery of Drear House (1987), later learning that she was originally from the nearby town of Yellow Springs.  Her M.C. Higgins, the Great won the Newbery Medal in 1974.

There is little objectionable in Cousins.  A few common euphemisms (Lordy, darn), some references to drinking alcohol, and talk about pre-teen dating occur.  A couple of reviewers apparently did not care for it.  One wrote, “The premise of this novel is intriguing: Cammy lives resentfully in the shadow of her near-perfect older cousin, Patty Ann, until Patty Ann is killed rescuing another child. The trouble is that very little of this novel has anything to do with this premise. There’s exactly one interaction between Cammy and Patty Ann before Patty Ann dies. One. We don’t really get a feel for the relationship between the cousins at all. There’s a lot of rambling about other members of the family that never really comes out to anything related to the main plot.”  Another said, “I had to read this book for a college class (Literature for Adolescents) and was less than thrilled by it. I think it is certainly on a very low reading level, while at the same time using stream-of-consciousness techniques that could be confusing for some younger readers.”  However, others liked the book because it teaches a good lesson about family love and forgiveness.  I would say that it is “okay.”  It is “Book 1 of 2 in the Cousins Series;” the sequel is entitled Second Cousins (1998).

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