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Center for Children’s Literature

"The Brother's Story" by Katherine Sturtevant

The Brothers Story

This solid work of historical fiction, explores the struggles of a 15 year old boy during the Great Frost of 1693 in England. The Brothers Story depicts a relatively unknown period of history through the intense mind, heart and body of a teenage boy.  Kit and his brother Christy are identical twins, except for the fact that Christy is “simple.”  They’ve always done everything together, but as they grow older, Christy is becoming a burden for Kit.  When times become desperate, their younger brother starves, and the family is forced to burn furniture for warmth, the boys’ mother arranges for them to become servants in a neighboring household.  Governed by a stern master, who believes he can train Christy with enough physical discipline, the boys suffer in their new environment.  Kit comes to the realization that the only way he can better himself is by leaving Essex, and his brother behind. After stealing a valuable scarf, Kit travels to London and become apprentice to a struggling painter.  Finally comfortable, he works hard for his master and takes in the sights and sounds of London life, especially the Frost Fair. Aware of his own sexual awakening, Kit’s physical reactions to women and his attraction to a local servant girl are a continuing theme throughout.  When his master dies of venereal disease, Kit is accused of theft and runs away.  After cleared of the charge, he returns as an apprentice for his master’s brother, a tailor.  Finally, Kit take responsibility for his future and that of his brother back in Essex.

Thoroughly researched with language matching the time and place, Katherine Sturtevant’s strength in this book is in the voice and character of Kit. His voice rings true to the reader as we see his suffering, feeling, and physical reactions to all the dramatic events in his life.  The harsh conditions, the sights and sounds of the city and the beauty of London’s Frost Fair come alive in the wonderfully descriptive language. The fast pace of the narrative keeps the reader interested as circumstances which appear hopeless invite important decisions.  Throughout the story, Kit struggles with making the right choices with his life; situations and circumstances point to no right answers.  Although he sometimes stumbles, in the end, Kit balances his options and makes the right decision for himself and brother.  Respectfully treating the mentally disabled, this original story covers a variety of issues, many of which are just as important today as they were 400 years ago.  Recommended for high school age readers.

Author: Katherine Sturtevant

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009

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