Colin Thiele Paul Heins - Essay

Paul Heins

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The simplicity of [The Hammerhead Light] reflects the uncomplicated emotional relationship between the old man and the young girl, and their common way of thinking and feeling is in tune with the natural, wholesome beauty of their surroundings. (p. 446)

Paul Heins, "Stories for Intermediate Readers: 'The Hammerhead Light'," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1977 by the Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. LIII, No. 4, August, 1977, pp. 445-46.

Counterpointing all [the] standard Peck's-bad-boyishness [in The Shadow on the Hills] is Bodo's involvement with half-crazed hermit Ebenezer Blitz who delivers wild sermons in the neighboring hills, vowing to destroy Moses Mibus for dirty-dealing him out of his farm years back. Bodo finds himself squarely in the middle of an increasingly vicious feud which, through a complicated pileup of events, lands Mibus in jail, his empire literally in ashes, and Blitz in a nursing home. Thiele leaves a convincing ragged edge to his plot and avoids the trap of dispensing justice too neatly. Unfortunately, the heated rivalry between Moses and Ebenezer never moves us as it's meant to because there are no fleshed out portraits here, only quick profiles of all the characters, even Bodo. It's the background—the texture and feel of life in Gonunda—that is most keenly present; and, rather ironically, it's a remote and unconnected happening, the Depression, which ultimately has the greatest impact on Bodo and the rest of the townfolk. Thus the novel adds up to more than the sum of its parts, due to Thiele's unfailing knack for catching a simpler, bygone world and pinning it down with tack-sharp observations.

"Young Adult Fiction: 'The Shadow on the Hills'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1978 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLVI, No. 5, March 1, 1978, p. 248.