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Scout    by Christine Ford order for
by Christine Ford
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Scout is narrated by eleven-year old Cecelia Terwiliger in 'sparse free verse' in Christine Ford's first novel - 'And I just find the wooden bridge. / Thruuump. / It makes a hollow sound when I jump. / I stand there like a scout. / because in these woods it's all different. / I am different. / The watchman. / The lookout.' Ford's soothing, singing pace and phrasing are smooth, filling the heart with warmth and compassion.

It is a tender, heartwarming story of the changes in the lives of Cecelia and Redbud, the new student at school. Others shy from him, as he is a 'scruffy youth', with holes in his jeans and disheveled hair. Redbud shows Cecelia to his home - first, the temporary one, traipsing through a dark tunnel until they reach Sara Church Home. Beds are lined up against the wall in this place with its own nurse and security guard. It has been six months, and the caseworker allows Redbud weekend passage to his family home. Redbud invites Cecelia to go with him, introduces her to Memaw, but especially to his father. A Vietnam vet, he is rigid and gruff, calling for discipline as the key to living. His dad constantly gives orders, 'Hop to it, soldier!', and later Redbud voices his feelings to his new friend - 'You don't know how it is ... Scary. It's scary at home.'

Since Mom passed away, Cecelia's Pop only notices color and 'tends the garden'. Cecelia feels unnoticed. Older Sis is busy with her boyfriend, and Cecelia fills the void by befriending Redbud. 'We head out. / Me following him close enough so's / I can grab his fingers If I need to ... I am being led and I don't like it, / because I am the leader, the scout. / I watch over this wiry kid.' Some years past, 'I got a chain / in my box of Cracker Jack / from the movie ... It has a little/silver (hart) heart / dangling from it.' It is from a time she and Mom went to a movie, and in her journal Cecelia writes, 'For you / Who will / Never go away / Because / Of this tear / This heart / I have for you'. Cecelia treasures a card from her Mom that says, 'Cecelia, you have the heart of a jewel.' Mom had cancer, and Pop says, 'Death is blind. / Blind as a bat. / And it eats our insides.'

Redbud is hit by a car, and 'lies in the gutter, like a rag doll', as the driver speeds from the scene. 'I am there. / I touch his hand, / and hold his head up and/see blood pool in his ear ... I am crying, / screeching, / where is his heartbeat?' Consoled by Pop, Cecelia laments 'I did not keep him safe behind me. / I did not watch out for him / or keep him close by. / I did not listen like a scout'. With all that has happened, past and present pain of loss and survival, finding oneself, and a reunion with family and friends, Cecilia ends her journey, 'I'll be right there. / I tell him, Pop but / first I go into the bathroom / to wash my face / with cool, bubbly water. / It's when I look up / that the mirror opens up / and on the other side is me, / and it is enough.'

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