Award-winning author Joy Gradert writes a heartwarming tale of friendship and family in her book, “Down Coon Hollow Road.” In the fall of 1988 in Missouri, the story examines the relationship between neighbors Maynard Olms and the Washburn family, who live on opposite ends of Coon Hollow Road.
When school starts in September, Kelsey Washburn, the daughter of John and Marcella Washburn, meets a brilliant girl named Ava McKittrick on their first bus ride to Junior High. Ava and her father, Ben, had recently moved to the community from Arkansas. Ava is a child prodigy in math and science. The two struck an immediate friendship with Ava regularly staying at the Washburn residence on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.
Maynard Olms is an eighty-year-old bachelor who resides in a small house on one end of Coon Hollow Road. After working nearly all his life as a carpenter, Maynard lives alone with his wolf-dog, Duke. Friendship blossoms between Maynard and the two girls as they regularly bring his dinner, listen to his stories, and sing along to his harmonic tunes. Throughout their friendship, we learn of the girls’ true passions as they tell Maynard their dreams of becoming a veterinarian and scientist.
With a humble home, a shed full of tools, and an old pick-up truck to his name, no one would ever suspect Maynard to have a substantial amount of money hidden away. However, a sudden visit from his criminal nephew, Clayton Olms, soon causes panic within the community. There’s no doubt about it—Clayton wants that money, and he’ll figure out how to get it.
Heartwarming, adventurous, and wholesome—Down Coon Hollow Road is a fun read for young readers and teens. The author has an excellent way of setting the scene with impressive detail and imagery. However, one thing that stands out is the author’s depiction of the friendship between Maynard and the two girls.
I also appreciate how Maynard is still considered a valuable community member, especially by Kelsey’s parents, who regard him as another family member. Additionally, the author brings life to the pets, showcasing a dog’s loyalty any dog lover would appreciate. While Duke may not be a verbal character, his presence is an important plot point in this story and ties everything together nicely.
To summarize, it’s hard to put down a book like this because every page and line carries so much heart. After reading it until the end, I’m confident that readers beyond the target audience will also find it compelling. Here’s hoping the author continues to write more books soon!
– The Moving Words Review
Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 2, 2023