Sitting on Top of the World
by Cheryl King
Purple Marble Press

"I finger my purple marble... and I vow that I will never let my sparkle die... "

Twelve-year-old June Baker lives with her mother, father, and older brother on the family farm near Maynardville, the biggest town in Union County, Tennessee. As the author’s debut novel opens, the Tennessee Valley takes the hard first blow of the Great Depression. When June walks to town to shop for her mom, she observes anxious customers lining up at the bank. Thus begins a years-long trial of survival.

As shops close and sources of income dry up, many men take to the rails to search for work. When June’s father accidentally severs two fingers in a woodcutting accident, her older brother Josy takes over his father’s work, then takes to the rails to save the farm. Soon the family hears that June’s best friend’s father is dead, thrown from a boxcar by “bulls”—railroad security men—who are often brutal with transient jobseekers. The Bakers can only hope that Josy won’t suffer the same fate. But by the time June’s fourteenth birthday rolls around, she has little choice but to learn how to ride the rails too.

The star of this historical coming-of-age tale is definitely the inquisitive and memorable young June, whose courage and will to survive will not be forgotten after the book is closed. Through her strong, quirky voice, readers experience the sights and sounds of Depression-era Tennessee. This middle-grade to young adult novel is also a potential page-turner for the adult set, enhanced by historical relevance and King’s sensitive portrayal of difficult topics, such as poverty, miscarriage, farm accidents, murder, suicide, chronic illness, racial discrimination, misogyny, and many other obstacles. The award-winning story has the potential to endure as a classic and as a solid addition to any school curriculum.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short List book

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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