Book Review: News of the World

By Hannah Povroznik on September 23, 2017 from Book Review via

Editor's Note: This was not assigned by but is a submitted piece by BHS student, Hannah Povroznik, in one of Mrs. Alice Rowe's Journalism classes. 
In the little town of Wichta Falls, Texas the dark and rainy skies of December 1870 are unremitting. The clouds are no more than shades of dank greys. The town is enveloped with a gloomy, impenetrable mood. The unruly weather speaks of the unrest within. News of the World is a stunning story that opens shortly after the American Civil War ended. Outside the small town, the recently ratified 15th amendment which granted freed men the right to vote stirs conflicting opinions and violence. In the midst of perilous controversy, a young captive girl and an elderly man journey onto the wild western roads. In this 213-page National Book Award Finalist novel, author Paulette Jiles reshapes the true meaning of friendship.
At age 71, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former printer, two-war veteran, and widower enjoys his simplistic life. He often travels from city to city across northern Texas reading news of the outside world to paying audiences. After he surrenders his printing shop due to debt, he finds comfort in his strong reading voice and the enchanting tales of far-off lands. However, after being introduced to Johanna Leonberger, a young Kiowa captive, his world is forever changed. Paid with a 22-karat gold coin, Captain Kidd agrees to escort Johanna on a dangerous 400-mile journey to Catrosville and return her safely to her aunt and uncle.
Through her strong, blue eyes, ten-year old Johanna stares into the faces of onlookers to hide a dismal past. At age six, she watched a Kiowa band brutally murder her parents and sister. She was then taken as a Kiowa captive.  Twice abandoned with no recollection of the English language, she only mourns for her Kiowa family and her previous, migratory life. With Captain Kidd’s tender heart, he eases Johanna back into civilized culture, and they grow to be kindred spirits. To Johanna, Captain Kidd is ‘Kontah’ meaning grandfather in Kiowa. However, as much as Johanna tries to integrate civilized influence, she holds tight to her Kiowa roots and love for the nomadic lifestyle.
As Kidd spends more time with Johanna, he believes that the purpose of life is to carry messages. Just as he travels from town to town delivering news, he thinks everyone has a message in life. Perhaps each has not figured out what his message reads, but life is about discovering that purpose.
Written for teens and adults, this book proved to be a beautiful intertwinement of historical fact and intriguing narration. Without seeming like a history lesson, this interactive story told about facing hardships and finding courage. Feeling like one of the characters in the book, the reader is able to sense heartache, adventure, and pure happiness.
There are portions of the book that seem disjointed and rambling. While certainly important, much of the scenic imagery becomes monotonous. The dialog between characters lacks quotations, making it difficult to follow. Although the story can be emotional at times, the plot expresses the importance of friendship. Paulette Jiles crafts the character of Johanna captivatingly. Johanna’s creative and outlandish spirit makes the book humorous and lightens the mood. The ability to journey to the rugged Texas terrain alongside Johanna is both relaxing and rejuvenating.
I would highly recommend this book. As Captain Kidd discovers, it is humbling to experience life through the eyes of a child. In today’s world where it is difficult to see things as black or white, it is comforting to root for the good guy whose sense of duty and love causes him to do something kind and generous. Guiding the way is Johanna’s spirit, a continual inspiration for others to follow. 

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