Cover Image: The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas

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Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I honestly have not read, "Zachary Beaver", but I will be after reading this book. 

I really enjoyed this book, and read it in just a few sittings. The main character, Rylee, lives in small town Texas and when her neighbor passes away, a family from New York moves in shortly after the events of 9/11. I loved watching Rylee and Joe's friendship bloom as they both overcome different types of hardships. Holt brings up difficult subjects within the book, but handle them with a sensitivity making the story accessible for middle grade readers.
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I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  I enjoyed this book which is a sequel to When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.  However, I feel like I didn't get part of the story because I hadn't read the first book.  Since then, I've gone back and read "Zachary Beaver" however, I'm not sure this story quite stands alone.
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For 38 years, I was a school librarian, who had the joy and privilege of encouraging students to love reading.  I also got to read many great books along the way, because how can you get someone excited about reading a book unless you have read it first?  In 1999, Kimberly Willis Holt’s award winning novel “When Zachary Beaver Came To Town” was one such book.  It was set in the 1970s Vietnam Era in a tiny town in the Texas panhandle near Palo Duro Canyon, and was a powerful read that went on to win the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  Holt’s characters, plot, setting, and writing were magical.

I was truly excited to hear that Holt had written a sequel to the book, and was honored to be given an Advanced Reader’s Copy to read before its recent publication on January 12, 2021.  The new sequel is entitled “The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas” and is set several decades later in the same small town of Antler, TX, in the post-9/11 era.  I just finished reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is full of characters that will make your heart happy, and contains such an uplifting plot despite life being present with its ups and downs—the death of loved ones, divorce, and broken friendships besides 9/11.  Love and friendship and kindness and new beginnings permeate the book also.  It is marketed for 10-14 year olds, but this adult LOVED it.

The main character, Rylee Wilson, is the daughter of one of the main characters of “When Zachary Beaver Comes To Town”—Toby Wilson.  Toby has grown up to be a middle school history teacher.  Some of the other beloved characters of the first novel are reintroduced through her eyes along with new characters.  Another main character, Joe Toscani, and his mother move to Antler from post 9-11 New York.  It is obvious that Joe is troubled about something, but Antler and its denizens begin to work their magic and healing on him.  Towards the beginning of the book, when he has a big chip on his shoulder, Joe dubs Rylee “The Ambassador Of Nowhere Texas” when she offers to show him around town.  The following conversation ensues:

“The wind picked up, blowing a tumbleweed across our path. Down the road ahead dozens of them rolled until they reached the raised track. 
“Wow!” Joe said. “Where do they come from?” 
Tumbleweeds were nothing new to me. They looked mighty rolling across the prairie and the highways, but as soon as they hit something big, they fell apart. 
One night, right before a snowstorm, Mom and I were driving back from Oklahoma. Giant tumbleweeds, as big as bales of hay, seemed to come out of nowhere as they rolled in front of our car. We’d squealed each time one crossed our way, but we drove right through them, scattering them into a million tiny sticks.”

In the novel, some of life’s problems are like those tumbleweeds which seem awfully big, but the caring characters manage to travel through them reducing them to more manageable “sticks”.

Holt also manages to write with humor interspersed into the plot.  Here is an example:

“The sign at our town’s border should have read: 
Welcome to Antler
Population 856
If You Don’t Want Something Told, Don’t Tell Us!”

Or, I loved this one:
“Librarians must have to take an I-shall-not-judge oath.”

I give this sequel five stars—the top rating I can give—and thank Kimberly Willis Holt for writing it.  I highly recommend it, and her first novel written all those years ago.

Thank you Henry Holt and Company and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book, and for allowing me the privilege of reading and reviewing it.  It was a joy!
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I will admit I had never read When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. When I was approved for an advanced copy of The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas I decided to go back to Zachary Beaver first. I'm so glad I did. While I think The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas stands on its own merits, it was a pleasure to read it as an update to the stories told in When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.  The author does not shy away from difficult subjects, but does handle them with a sensitivity making the story accessible for many readers. 

This book was an excellent exploration of friendship, how we change as well grow, and what we mean when we talk about home.
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It has been years since I read When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. Twenty years after Vietnam, we find out the next chapter. The fateful 9/11 has happened and America is changed forever. This is Rylee's story. Rylee is the daughter of Toby, the main character in When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and Toby's best friend (now Uncle Cal) lives right next door. Rylee's parents are both teachers living in the small Texas town. They run the snow cone booth through the summer. Miss Myrtie May, Rylee's next door neighbor, has died and a new family moved in. He is from New York City and can't believe he has landed in little bitty Antler. We slowly discover his story, why he and his mother moved here, what has happened to the rest of his family when they lived in New York. Joe convinces Rylee to set off on a search for Zachary Beaver. Together they explore the meaning of friendship and loss and how they need to keep going on even when the world around them changes more than they'd like. What they discover is friendship at its very best. Middle school students will enjoy Rylee's story, as well as upper elementary students.
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The Ambassador of Nowhere is a middle grade book that reads as a love letter to the children of 9/11. It’s a fictional story but the premise is based on a true American history; the terror attacks that once had robbed lives of many and left about more than 3000 children parentless. Despite the sentimentality that lingers about the catastrophe itself, Holt’s exceptional and heartfelt writing will take you on a delightful journey—centering on themes that most readers would find this as an engaging read such as friendships, redemption, home, and family.

Written from the first point of view, we’re introduced to the main character named Rylee Wilson, a seventh grade, who has a best friend named Twig. Yet their relationship becomes distant when Twig comes from an international trip with a domestic problem on her shoulders. Their misunderstanding builds the space in between them, leading both of them astray. The turmoil between Rylee and Twig would be a turning page for readers who seek for what a true friendship is. Another true friendship can also be found in the project lead by Rylee and a newcomer boy in the town named Joe. The aim of this project is to look for Zachary Beaver, an old, long-forgotten friend of her Dad and her Uncle.  

Paralleling with the timeline and the terrorism, Holt delivers us such a successful storyline that makes sense in a way of how she conducts the aftermath of the event. Rylee is not affected by the terrorism since she lives in Antler but the boy, Joe, who comes from New York is affected badly. The relationship between Rylee and Joe grows beautifully as they are able to overcome their hardships by focusing on the aforesaid project. It’s a kind of platonic love in which I think readers will find the relationship likeable.

This book is written so deftly and I hardly find any part that feels disjointed to me. I would recommend this book to anyone who favours well-rounded characters with friendships as the major theme. I also want to add that it’s my first time finding about this historical event and I was happened to born in the same year the terrorism had occurred. If Holt doesn’t pen this story then I wouldn’t know. For that, I want to thank her for bringing this event to life with an impactful narration. 

Thank you Netgalley and Turn The Page Tour for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Rating: 4/5 stars

I want to begin by saying that I am positive I have an invisible faucet fitted somewhere near my eyes which breaks apart whenever I read. Nothing else can explain my reaction while reading this beautiful book. I honestly never thought Middle Grade Books would want me to try so hard as to not cry (a lie, I think I have been teary eyed in most of them). They are supposed to feel childish and a cool refreshing reads then why do they seem like coming home?

This books is no different, trust me. It started of slowly, just describing the friendship of Rylee and Twig and the plot setting that was chosen. It seemed during that moment that nothing significant would be coming out of it. The words described personalities of Twig and Rylee which made it easier for me to picture them. Then 9/11 attack was described and the what was the town’s response. And that was the turning point of the book. It was like slowly and gradually important stuff started to unwrap. There is no way I can talk about them without giving spoilers but I will still brief through all the stuff. We saw how sometimes friendship breaks apart, but can be still glued back in months or in years. Then we saw how families navigate through divorce and death. Beautiful narration of stories from oldies could be seen and even if I personally couldn’t get majority of the references, I still enjoyed reading about them. It’s like some people will be nostalgic about those stuff while some would be looking out to find something new, interesting and exciting. Various aspects of growing up were covered and somehow through all of this, I tried very hard to not see how my life had been during those years and what would the impact have been.

Finding Zachary Beaver was an excuse to make the readers go on a journey they wouldn’t regret being on. The blurb gives a gist of the different different characters and events it was going to discuss about. It’s really surprising how events affect not only our lives and understandings or surroundings for that matter, but how they tell people a story, an event however unfortunate to visit back to and think about how different things could have been. How hard this novel hits you is quite subjective I believe but there is no way that it wouldn’t hit you hard and make you wonder about a lot of things.

Trigger Warnings: 9/11 attacks description, Vietnamese war mention and discussion, Death of a loved one, Divorce, mention of instances of Bullying.
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6 Things I Enjoyed from The Ambassador of Texas:

1. I LOVED how Kimberly Willis Holt developed her characters from the beginning to the end. They were easy to like and relate to.
2. The dialogue between Rylee and Joe was engaging, believable, and conveyed a wonderful sense of small-town closeness.
3. Both the subject matter (9/11) and the memories associated with it were written in a way that was factual, yet, still reveling the topsy-turvy emotions that go along with losing someone you love in such a tragic way.
4. Kimberly Willis Holt did a good job explaining the timeline for the characters while still giving me a richer understanding of what it might have been like to lose someone during 9/11
5. I appreciated how Kimberly Willis Holt interwove themes of forgiveness, overcoming grief, being true to yourself, and perseverance.
6. I will close out with my favorite quote from the book:
“But true Friendship never fades, no matter what happens”.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, engaging, and enlightening story that any age would like. I do think it started a little slow, but after reading a bit I was thoroughly engrossed in the story. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, for the characters, how 9/11 was conveyed, and for giving me a richer understanding of that time period.

*I volunteered to read this book in return for my honest feedback. The thoughts and opinions expressed within are my own.
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The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas covers a lovely story of friendship woven into a traumatic time period. Rylee tries to handle many changes in her life among her fractured friendship with Twig. When the events of September 11 take place, Rylee struggles to understand the meaning of these changes. 

In addition to friendship, 'The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas' is a middle grade story covering the impact of September 11, 2001. This was a very tragic part of American history. Kimberly Willis Holt nicely addressed the effects of 9/11 through Rylee and Joe’s eyes. Rylee’s shock and Joe’s frustration is raw, their pain reflected throughout the book. Traumatic events such as September 11 must be approached gently with children, and I felt that this book did good work addressing that.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the gifted digital copy!
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Move a generation beyond the Vietnam War and Toby’s summer in When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and pick up with Toby’s daughter in the 9/11 era in The Ambassador of Nowhere, Texas. A reader who loved the first book will have to wonder if the second measures up. After all, a National Book Award winner is a pretty high standard! I checked it out by rereading Zachary Beaver, followed immediately by the Ambassador. 

The beginning of The Ambassador of Nowhere, Texas returns to familiar territory in Antler, Texas. Old friends from the first book show up in new places, a few buried in the cemetery. Toby’s wife turned out to be the first surprise, but I won’t spoil it for you. 

Toby’s daughter Rylee explores the theme of friendship as her best friend Twig becomes distant and a new kid named Joe arrives in Antler from New York City in the aftermath of the death of his father in 9/11. As Rylee explores the complexities of her own relationships, she wonders about the one between her father, his best friend, and Zachary. She is not content with the idea of the two friends losing all touch with Zachary after he left Antler following the memorable summer when her father and Cal befriended him. Rylee and Joe begin their own search. For both generations, the value of friendship winds up in juxtaposition against the cost and effort to maintain or restore it.  

The question about whether this book measures up to the first is a resounding, “Yes!” Perhaps you also wonder if it is necessary to read or reread Zachary Beaver before you read the Ambassador. The answer is the same as if you asked if it was necessary to put the hot fudge, cherry, and whipped cream on top of the vanilla ice cream. It is not essential, but why not give yourself the whole treat? – And this one is calorie free!
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This was a wonderful read set in the post 9/11 time period. I hadn't read When Zachary Beaver Came to town in a long time and couldn't remember all of the details from it, but you don't need to read it in order to understand what is happening in this books. I loved how the character and the town came together to help Joe and his mother. I would have liked to see more information about what the town was like and how people were feeling in Antler in the time after 9/11, but still enjoyed reading it. I would recommend it for any middle grade student.
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Upon beginning to read this book, I was immediately pulled into the story. I can't remember the last time I read a middle grade that I actually enjoyed, and this one reminded me of that feeling almost immediately after turning to that first, digital page.

Kimberly Willis Holt has a fantastic writing style. While some might find problems with the book being a bit disconnected at times, I actually enjoyed it. I found it to be a different take on storytelling, and I really think it added to the building of the story altogether. Her characters were strongly developed, and I found myself even relating to some of their feelings and decisions at times.

The world-building in The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas was among some of the best I've seen. I don't think I've ever wanted to visit a fictional town more than I did when reading this book. Holt really put the time and effort into thoroughly describing and detailing out Antler in a way that makes the reader crave it.

Something I wasn't the biggest fan of though was how long it took for the plot of searching for Zachary Beaver to begin. It was way past the 50% marker before Rylee and Joe decided to start researching, and I felt like this caused the pacing to be a bit wonky at certain points. Along with that, I couldn't help but feel--with some of the dialogue--that the characters were talking like they were older than they were said to be. It almost felt like reading dialogue from someone in their late teens to early adulthood, and I found it to be a bit disorienting.

Overall though, I really did enjoy this book a lot, and for that, I rate The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas 4 stars. I definitely think this will be one I will be investing in multiple copies in for my younger brothers to own and read on their own.
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
What a book to with which to close out 2020. Rylee has lived her entire live in a small little Texas town. She bikes around with her best friend, helps her parents run the shaved ice stand, and enjoys music at the town’s ‘opry’ owned and ran by her grandmother. But when 9/11 happens, life changes for Rylee. Her friend, who happened to be flying back from an international trip via New York no longer wants to hang out and Rylee is devastated until Joe, the new boy from New York City moves in next door. As their friendship grows, Rylee and Joe work to find some of the town’s history and Rylee learns how to become a friend to someone new.
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I didn't realize this was a follow up story until I read another review of the book.  The story seemed to stand alone just fine and I liked the characters well enough, but there were some key plot points that seemed like something was missing, like why Rylee and Twig stopped being friends and why they started being friends again.  The September 11 parts of the book were very well done and I liked the small town in Texas setting.  But I don't know that any of my students would really enjoy this one.
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Antler, Texas - I could just feel the small town feel through Rylee’s voice. Her friendship with Joe, newly moved to Antler from New York City, seems unusual, but since she and her friend Twig are having problems, they do just naturally fall together. Rylee needs to solve the mystery of why her father and Uncle Cal were given a picture of Zachary Beaver and Joe becomes her partner in this investigation. Centered around 9/11, this book is a wonderful story and companion to Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town.
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A good follow up to Zachary Beaver, but a totally different tale of friends, old and new and friendships and their complexities.
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This is a great coming-of-age book about letting go and finding acceptance when life is unclear. When Joe, Twig, and Rylee experience life-changing loss, they grow from each others experiences. The writing is delicate and sensible while maintaining the reader. This was a fun book to read with has laughs throughout. I highly recommend this book for all ages, middle school through adult.
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When Zachary Beaver Came to Town is a novel that I will always remember. At a time when middle grade and young adult novels shied didn’t focus heavily on weight discrimination and body image, it helped readers learn to empathize instead of ridicule. But, it was supposed that the author was finished writing about these particular characters. So, when I saw this book available on NetGalley, I desperately wanted to read it and learn more about Zachary‘s story. I have to say it is not quite as good as the first novel, but it definitely made me want to keep turning the pages and find out what happened to the characters. Spoiler alert, you do find out what happened to Zachary Beaver, but it’s not the whole focus of the story. It is also a story about friendship, learning to forgive, and about seeing beyond the differences we have and getting to know each other better. Kimberly Willis Holt did an amazing job with this book, and I think readers who want to know more about Zachary will be pleased with the outcome.
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With thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for an early copy in return for an honest review.

Note: Although this is a companion novel to When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, I hadn't read the first book and didn't feel confused at all, so this book can definitely be read as a stand-alone. 

One of the things that really elevates a book for me is a sense of place, and The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas does that incredibly well. I felt like I was walking down the streets of a small Texas town (Note: if you want to enhance the experience, download some Nickel Creek music to listen while you read!). I think the book does an excellent job of introducing middle grades readers to the impact of 9/11, in an age appropriate manner. The theme of friendship is one that many middle grades readers will relate to and they will related to how Rylee navigates different friendships. Often, parents and educators of young MG readers ask about this, so it is worth noting that there is some light dating in the story.
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I am thrilled to review The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas. It’s a middle grade read that I think young readers will find appealing. Rylee is 12, a difficult age for a girl, especially in a small community. Her friendship with Twig undergoes transformations which are difficult to accept. The book revolves around Antler, Texas and the connections of its residents. It also picks up with a previous book by Holt, which I thought was a nice thread. 9/11 is another theme in the story, adding to the poignancy. I enjoyed it and think Holt has found the right blend for an adolescent girl. It was also fun to read about technology of 2001 and the nostalgic use of microfilm and magazine indices.
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