Children’s Fiction of 2008: Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth

When Melissa Gold sashays into church, late, in the first chapter of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning, trouble is obviously on the way. Violet is used to being the center of attention, at least of her best friend Lottie’s attention, and she doesn’t take well to Melissa-from-Detroit taking center stage.

Violet is an eleven year old tomboy who lives and thrives in the town of Mitchell Hammock in rural Florida. She likes the Sunday night fish fry at Lottie’s house, a Brain Freeze bought at the gas station, playing in the woods with her friend Eddie, collecting words from the newspaper, and looking for shells by the river. She doesn’t like the old rotting net bridge across the river, long church services, girls who talk about bras and make-up and get all googly-eyed over boys, and especially she doesn’t like Melissa.

I learned something about lightning from reading this book. Did you know that:

“Florida is lightning capital of the United States. Florida experiences lightning strikes at least 100 days per year. In comparison, California has four or five thunderstorm days per year. Interstate 4 between Orlando and St. Petersburg is called lightning alley. There is more lightning activity on lightning alley than any other area in the U.S.” (Around Central Florida)

I also learned something more about pre-adolescent friendships and their ups and downs. I think this book will be especially popular in small towns and rural school libraries because Ms. Haworth has the feel of a backwoods Southern town just right. I do wish Violet didn’t have such a propensity for using the Lord’s name in vain, but it may not bother you. I also wish Melissa and Lottie didn’t have to get their ideas of what it means to grow up from Hollywood and from soap operas, but I reckon that’s fairly typical. And now that I’ve lapsed into Southern rural jargon myself, I’d better leave you with another quotation from Violet herself as she looks at a tree that hs survived a lightning strike:

“I put my hands on the tree and feel the wound. Closing my eyes, I can see that lightning strike again. This is one brave tree. It’s still standing and most of its leaves are still green. The storm didn’t knock it down. I’m glad now the tree isn’t naked. Even this scar don’t ruin its beauty. In fact, I think it gives it character, something most of your regular trees don’t have.”

Violet, too, is a survivor, and she’s certainly got character.

Bloggers review Violet Raines:

The Reading Zone:Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is the perfect book for rising middle schoolers. It beautifully depicts the struggles and triumphs of middle grade friendships- especially those tricky friendships that cross gender lines. It also provides a wonderful picture of growing up, growing friendships, and growing maturity.”

Hello Ello (from her nine year old daughter’s review): “I really want to read more funny books about Violet. I really wonder what Ms. Haworth’s next book will be about. I really hope it is like this one.”

Kate Messner: “There are so many things to praise about this novel — the lively, quirky characters, Violet’s fabulous voice, the Florida-in-summer setting, painted so perfectly I kept swatting imaginary mosquitoes while I read.”

Shelf Elf: “I’d happily put this in the hands of any Grade 5 girl. Here’s hoping that there are lots more titles just as worthy in the very long and ever-growing list of Cybils nominations.”

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