Virginia Hamilton Elinore Standard - Essay

Elinore Standard

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

At the start of Virginia Hamilton's Zeely, Miss Elizabeth and Master John Perry are traveling by train to Uncle Ross' farm for the summer. New holiday names are quickly minted—Elizabeth is Geeder and John is Toeboy.

Miss Hamilton tells with perfect, nostalgic descriptions of the uncle's old farmhouse, of country days and doings, good country things to eat, and of summer nights slept in the dewy outdoors, of moonlight tricks and exchanged whispers in the dark. Best of all, this is the story of Geeder and Zeely.

Zeely Tayber was more than six and a half feet tall, thin and deeply dark as a pole of ebony….

She had very high cheekbones and her eyes seemed to turn inward on themselves. Geeder couldn't say what expression she saw on Zeely's face. She only knew that it was calm, that it had pride in it, and that the face was the most beautiful she had ever seen.

Geeder listens while Zeely tells a haunting story of her own origins and of her people. The tale has a moral and one from which Geeder profits.

Zeely is a fresh, sensitive story, with a lingering, serene, misty quality about it which the reader can save and savor.

Elinore Standard, "Weaving Spells," in Book Week—The Washington Post (© 1967, The Washington Post), June 25, 1967, p. 12.∗