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A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant
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A Fine White Dust

by Cynthia Rylant

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Woefully behind in my goal to read all Newbery medal and honor books, I decided to open the cabinet and complete a few on the list for 2011.

No stranger to writing award-winning books, Rylant hails from the Appalachian mountains and many of her books have a small-town, back woods feel to them. Fundamental religion is part and parcel of Appalachia and while the setting of A Fine White Dust is a tiny town in North Carolina, threads of Rylant's history appear to be woven throughout.

Dealing with teen aged obsessiveness and the need to worship and honor a hero, Rylant creates the character of 13 year old Peter Cassidy who longs for a heavenly relationship with Jesus.

Drawn to religion since he was very young, Peter cannot understand his parents and best friend who do not attend church. When an itinerant preacher sets up shop and holds well-attended revival meetings, Peter is drawn like a moth to the flame.

As the crowds weave together, sweat rolling down their face, arms in the air, chanting their new found freedom from sin, Peter knows he belongs. Honoring God, but primarily worshiping the Preacher man, in a cult like fashion Peter attends each and every revival meeting, fainting at the altar at the feet of the Preacher as he gives his life to Jesus.

Packing his bags, willing to leave behind parents who love him and a solid friendship with a friend named Rufus, Peter agrees to be led like a lamb to follow Preacher man.

When Peter discovers Preacher man is not what he appears to be and that talking and doing are two separate things, Peter faith and spirit are temporarily broken.

While this is not a Newbery book I particularly recommend, I did like the theme of hero worship destroyed and the need to carefully analyze what is required from those we follow. The author creatively examines misplaced loyalty, friendship and family.
  Whisper1 | Nov 22, 2011 |
The visit of the traveling Preacher Man to his small North Carolina town gives new impetus to thirteen-year-old Peter's struggle to reconcile his own deeply felt religious belief with the beliefs and nonbeliefs of his family and friends.
  Lake_O_UCC | Feb 27, 2009 |
13 -year-old Pete has always been religious, even if his parents and best friend are not. When the Preacher man comes to his town, he is swept up in the man’s charisma and agrees to leave home to hit the road with him and serve God. After the Preacher leaves town without him, Pete must deal with a crisis of faith. Use of the word “hell.” Powerful first-person narration. Ages 12+.
  chosler | Jan 15, 2009 |
A Fine White Dust is about a young boy named Pete who sets his eyes on what he believes to be a killer but turns out to be a man he truly loves. Pete’s parents and best friend are not into the "Christian" thing but they respect him anyways. Along with the help of the preacher, Pete becomes saved. He has a few hard decisions to make throughout the whole story. It is amazing to see the way he handles them.

I absolutely loved this book. It truly touched me in many different ways. It is hard to think about it but if we all just lived are lives being disciples for Jesus the way he intended us to this world would be a wonderful place all the time. Sometime I wish I had all the courage that Pete had.

This book could be used as a literary device of foreshadowing. The book also uses great figurative language; it would be a good example for in a classroom.
  tmccollom | Nov 10, 2008 |
The protagonist, Pete, has a strong belief in God but faces attacks on his beliefs by his close family and friends, who fail to understand his deeply-rooted faith. After being betrayed by a religious leader with questionable ethics, the boy loses his trust in God, only to regain it as he realizes that his friends and family are blessings, despite their lack of religious beliefs, and that the Preacher Man’s failings were not a betrayal by God but rather a sign that humans can be weak in the flesh.

Other Observations: the preacher runs away with a young girl in town, who “probably is pregnant.” The book received a Newbery Honor in 1986. ( )
  juliahuprich | Aug 27, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0027772403, Hardcover)

The visit of the traveling Preacher Man to his small North Carolina town gives new impetus to thirteen-year-old Peter's struggle to reconcile his own deeply felt religious belief with the beliefs and non-beliefs of his family and friends.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The visit of the traveling Preacher Man to his small North Carolina town gives new impetus to thirteen-year-old Peter's struggle to reconcile his own deeply felt religious belief with the beliefs and non-beliefs of his family and friends.

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