THE CRITICS LOVE
ROCKHAND LIZZIE
by Gerald Eugene Nathan Stone


"A highly engaging tale."
Publishers Weekly

"Rollicking, picaresque."
Booklist

"Charming and funny."
The Sunday Oklahoman


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complete reviews.

 Publishers Weekly, 6-21-99:
Loosely based on his mother's early life. Stone's second novel (after God's Front Porch) opens like an atmospheric country soap opera, set in a 1901 Arkansas that is as untamed as its resident snakes and bears. When "going on seven" Lizzie Tackett loses both her sharecropper parents in rapid succession, she and her siblings are scattered by the courts. Lizzie goes to live with kindly Miz Robbins, who all too soon is murdered by her husband, an escapee from the insane asylum. Lizzie next finds a welcoming home with "Aunt" Maud and "Uncle" Billy, a rockhound and moonshiner, who fosters her uncommon talent for pitching "worshers" (the washers commonly found on wagon wheels) and teaches her to live by her wits. When Uncle Billy is falsely accused of murder, 12-year-old Lizzie lights out for Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) to find her siblings and to uncover the evidence that will exonerate Uncle Billy. Part Indian herself, Lizzie finds that extraordinary pitching earns her the Indian name "Rockhand" and gets her out of more than one scrape. Despite the hardships she survives, resilient Lizzie is a lighthearted narrator, and one who prides herself of having a "conniving mind." With the gumption of a female Tom Sawyer, she proves herself capable of devising gleefully original forms of revenge for those who cross her, and she forges a worthy life for herself out of difficult times. Stone doesn't gloss over the hardscrabble realities of the frontier era, but he imbues his heroine with enough sheer verve to produce a highly engaging tale.

Booklist, 7-99:
This rollicking picaresque novel is set in Arkansas in 1901, when Lizzie and her four siblings are orphaned shortly before her seventh birthday. They are parceled out to different homes, and Lizzie takes up residence with a series of folks. Some are hideously wicked, and others treat her with salt-of-the-earth kindness but are beset by tribulations that make it necessary for her to move on. Her first placement ends when Mr. Robbins escapes from the insane asylum in Little Rock and cuts Miz Robbins' throat with a broken fruit jar. Lizzie runs away and ends up with Uncle Billy and Aunt Maud. She learns to "pitch worshers," a horseshoes-like game not played by females, and discovers that, like rockhound Uncle Billy, she has a nose for finding saleable crystals. All is rosy until prohibitionists come looking for a still, and Uncle Billy ends up in jail for murder. Plucky Lizzie escapes to Indian Territory in pursuit of evidence to clear his name, and this delightfully episodic tale comes to a tidy conclusion. (Diana Tixier Herald)

The Sunday Oklahoman, 7-4-99:
Lizzie Tackett is 7 years old in 1901. She's a very precocious little girl, with one remarkable talent. Lizzie is a champion at pitching washers - or "worshers," the round metal discs that served as game pieces for one of rural America's favorite pastimes. When Lizzie loses her parents, she makes her way through Indian Territory and the Cherokee Strip, trying to determine who are the good folks and the bad folks. The good ones might be an old moonshiner and maybe some Indians. It appears the bad guys might be her court-appointed guardian. The book is an easy historical piece, charming and funny, with an appealingly tough heroine. It will pleasantly remind readers of all ages of "True Grit." The author's mother was an orphan in Oklahoma, and could pitch washers. Stone now lives in California, where he purports to be an architect who has written two novels. Actually, he's a writer. (Ann DeFrange)


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