Lord of the Mountain

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Lord of the Mountain

Albert Whitman, 2018

Ever since Nate Owens saw a needle glide across a 78-rpm record, he’s been fascinated by the science and beauty of music. Before long, he was devouring Popular Science magazines and making his own crystal set radio.

Now it’s the summer of 1927. Music producer Ralph Peer is coming to Nate’s hometown of Bristol, Tennessee, and there’s no way Nate is going to miss the chance to get inside the studio. The only problem is, Nate’s preacher father hates music—forbidding it in his home and his church. So when he finds out Nate’s been hanging around musicians like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, he comes down hard. With nothing left for Nate at home, he decides to take off in search of answers to his family’s troubled past.

Set during the “big bang” of country music, this novel tells one boy’s journey of self-discovery at a moment when an entire region was finding its voice for the first time.

This remarkable novel deftly winds history and fiction together in a compelling and moving story of music and identity. From unionization clashes to racial segregation, religious snake handling to mass poverty and unemployment, this historical novel explores the rapidly changing world of Prohibition-era Appalachia with incredible nuance and thoughtfulness. Through Nate’s honest and engaging first-person narration, Kidd crafts a voice and a journey that is, like the Carter Family’s songs, both old and new, rooted in tradition yet fresh and distinct.

VERDICT: Beautiful and intelligent historical fiction in the vein of Christopher Paul Curtis, Vince Vawter, and Mildred D. Taylor. A must-have for school and public library collections.

School Library Journal (starred)