In the 1997 Newbery Honor Book Belle Prater's Boy, young Woodrow Prater faces a crisis when his mother mysteriously disappears from their coal-mining mountain holler in Virginia. The boy must leave home to live with his grandparents in town, where his next-door neighbor is his cousin and best friend, Gypsy. In Ruth White's touching new sequel, The Search for Belle Prater, Woodrow gets a tantalizing hint of his mother's presence when someone calls on New Year's Eve Woodrow's birthday but promptly hangs up. He presumes it is his missing mother and sets out to locate her.
Woodrow is joined in the search by Gypsy, the narrator of this novel, and Cassie, a newcomer to town who was born with a caul, or the gift of second sight. With Cassie's encouragement and a dream from the supernatural world, Woodrow links signs and occurrences that seem to draw him toward the nearby town of Bluefield. There he discovers a letter that his mother left behind before her disappearance.
White's first novel focuses on Woodrow's realization that his mother has actually left the family. At the heart of this sequel is Woodrow's understanding and acceptance of why his mother left. When Woodrow cheers for his mother's new life, readers will cheer not only with him, but for him, as they realize Woodrow has found peace with his new life as well.
More than a family story, this novel takes on a strong sense of time and place Appalachia in the 1950s. White manages to capture both the quaintness and isolation of Appalachia's yesteryear.
Experienced readers may note an overabundance of coincidences and a resolution that arrives too quickly. Most children, however, will simply recognize Woodrow's appeal and be enamored once again by his stories, which are reminiscent of folktales. White has written another winner with this title, one that will leave readers hoping for another book featuring the charming Prater boy.