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Toning the Sweep

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  321 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
The videotaping is Ola's idea--Ola, Emmie's grandma who lives in the California desert is dying of cancer. Emmie and her mother have come to "the dry" to paack up Ola's house and take her back to a hospital in Cleveland. As Emmie starts photographing Ola's friends, she learns about her family history and their heritage. As Ola is speeded off to heaven, life below is revere ...more
Hardcover, 103 pages
Published April 1st 1993 by Orchard Books (NY) (first published 1993)
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Whitney Priestley
May 17, 2011 Whitney Priestley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, only 103 pages long, yet there was so much depth to it. I was really surprised on how developed each character was even though it was a short book. This book is written and published for young adults, but I felt like I was reading a much more mature book. I found this one to be very refreshing from the more common young adult books. I felt like this was more real and simple yet captivating. I really did enjoy the book.

WARNINGS: There are none.
Oct 23, 2008 Carolynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emily with her mother is helping her grandmother, Ola, who is living with terminal cancer, pack up her house in the desert Southwest so that she can move to Cleveland to live with Emily and her parents. Because she is grieving for the loss of the house in the desert, and all her grandmother's friends there, she films Ola and her friends to make a memory for her grandmother. In the process she learns about the death of her grandfather in Alabama during the Civil Rights era.
This is an exceptional
Sep 07, 2010 Tammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my absolute favorite children's book. Read it carefully so that you don't miss the deep ideas in this eloquent and simply written easy read. I think it was 1993 when I read it for the first time with my class of 4th graders. I've read it at least 15 times since then. I enjoy sharing it with my students when I really have time to show them the beauty of this book. I also shared it with my adult book club. They were impressed by our heavy discussion of a "children's book".
Aug 08, 2010 Hattie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Toning The Sweep by Angela Johnson
I loved the characters in "Toning The Sweep" by Angela Johnson. There is Emmie, the main character. She is visiting her Grandma Ola in the California desert. She and her mom have come all the way from Alabama. Oddly, Ola's daughter, Diane, does not get along with her mother. When both of these women are in the same room, there is tension due to past emotional pain. Emmie finds no problem with Ola. She love her and likes identifying with her by wearing her hats a
Sep 24, 2013 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Angela Johnson expertly weaves the interconnecting story of three generations of women in the same family through the voice of the protagonist, Emmie, the granddaughter. The present story of Ola, the grandmother, dealing with her cancer and preparing to move across the country to live with her daughter and granddaughter progresses by being told through stories from the past that are voiced through other minor characters. The setting of the desert is fluid and ever-changing, mirroring the three m ...more
Rachel Parker
This book is about a fourteen year old girl named Emmie who has gone to California to help her Grandmother Ola. Ola has been diagnosed with cancer so Emmie and her mother have decided that Ola should move in with their family. The story takes place while the women pack up all of Ola's belongings in her home. Emmie takes this time to take an old video camera and record people around town talk about Ola. How they met her, what she is like, how she has changed their lives etc. Through this process ...more
Bobby Parker
Jun 21, 2010 Bobby Parker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 10-books-june-22
This book is about a young black girl who travels with her mom to the desert in order to pick up her grandma so she can live with them. Her grandma is dying of cancer but this story focuses on the young girl and her coming to terms and learning things about her family (mostly her grandmother and mother that she didn't know. She meets her grandma's friends and finds out things about her grandfather and about her mother and grandmother's relationship.

I am not the world's most gun ho reader but I a
Sep 15, 2015 Jodi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2016 Precious rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Toning The Sweep is about a young girl named Emily trying to understand herself and the world around her. For as long as she can remember she would visit her grandmother Ola in the desert ,but when she is diagnosed with cancer she made the decision to move to Cleveland with her daughter. As the family is at Ola's to help pack Emily gets the idea to videotape the farewell. She gets shots of all the friends Ola made in the desert along with the stories of the their journey's together. because of t ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a perfect little book. I hope that when our budget is restored, I can add this to the 9th grade curriculum. Unlike so many books written at an accessible level for reluctant and struggling adolescent readers, this book is well-written and philosophically deep. The story of a 14-year old girl coming to terms with her grandmother's cancer, and her grandfather's death years before she was born, it speaks to the need for ritual and and symbolism as we mark the milestones in life, as well as to ...more
Sep 11, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
If you grew up with grandparents that you visited regularly in a different town from yours, then there probably came a time in your life when your grandparents passed away or were no longer able to live on their own--so you lost a beloved person and a beloved place at the same time. This short book (about 100 pages) tells the story of a fourteen year-old girl from Cleveland who is going through that loss as she helps her grandmother, who has cancer, pack up her house in the California desert. Ki ...more
Toning the Sweep really managed to showcase the many different kinds of female relationships. Although there are no overt female/female love interests, I think they're quite a bit of subtext to indicate one. I really enjoyed this book over all. It's a lot about family: the kind you're born into and the kind you make on your own. And it's a little bit about trying to find yourself when you don't know all about your history. I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend this one to people who like ...more
Teajanae Bennett
This book is very heartwarming and has a powerful ending. In the book Emily helps everyone recover from the death of her grandmother. Emily's grandmother ,Ola, is suffering from cancer and is told that she will die soon so she moves with Emily and her mother only to find good things. One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that Ola's friend Martha has many adopted children one of which helps Emily with everything and is always there for her. I strongly recommend this book because it is ver ...more
"One of the best-reviewed novels for young adults in 1993, this powerful debut is reminiscent of Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale. This story spans three generations of African-American women and their struggle to find a common ground for sharing love, friendship, and hardships. Young Adult."

There wasn't any basketball or amputations, so it exceeded my expectations as YA realistic fiction... but I bet there would be both of those things if there was a sequel.
Debbie Tanner
Toning the sweep refers to a custom of striking a plow (a sweep) or another piece of metal with a hammer when someone dies. It's supposed to help them move to the next plane of life. This book is about a family dealing with death. On one hand, they are dealing with the death of their husband and father, more than 30 years ago and on the other hand, they are dealing with the impending death of mother/grandmother.
Mar 01, 2008 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emily is 14 when she and her mother visit her grandmother, who is dying of cancer. They pack up Ola's belongings so that she can live with them in Cleveland until she dies. Emily makes a movie for her granmother, and for herself, that helps her come to terms with Ola's imminent death. As she films Ola's friends and loved ones, Emily learns much about her family and their past.

A bittersweet and, ultimately, triumphant novel filled with the stories of strong women.

Oct 20, 2010 The rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i think this book was a waste of my time dont get me wrong this is a good book but its not for me.okayy im a give you a little bout the book. its about this gil named Ola and she is an older lady and she lives out in the dessert and her daughter and grand daughter come out to get her casue he is sick with some desiese. and all throught the whole book she is talking about her life and stuff. that sounds all fine and dandy but not for me i would like a book with a little more action.
Brandon Campbell
This book is a very interesting book that takes place in the south . It reminds me of my family , mainly my elders and how certain things as younger children we dont understand until were grown , One of those essiantial things in this book is Toning the sweep which is ascending dead family into heaven that the younger ones dont understand
Apr 24, 2015 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Angela Johnson won the Coretta Scott King Award for this book and I can see why. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. While written on a teen's level, the story is profound and draws the reader into literally reading every word. Toning the Sweep is for everyone and needs to be read by everyone.
Darcia Scates
I didn't enjoy this book. It read like a diary, and then tried to be general fiction. The changes were not enjoyable. I would not be proud of this book and I am not likely to knowingly pick up another book written by this author. The Coretta Scott King committee passed over several other good books to choose this one ? Disappointed.
Aug 18, 2010 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
This is a sweet little story. Fourteen-year-old Emmie's grandmother Ola lives in the desert, and has just been diagnosed with cancer. The story details Emmie's discoveries about herself and her family and friends when Emmie & her mother come to help pack up Ola to move back east to the city with them.
Brooklyn F
This book Toning The Sweep is about a girl Emily and her Grandmother. Ola is the grandmother and she lives in a desert. Ola is very sick and is she packing up to move to Clevland with Emily. Her husband died in the war of 1964. I liked this book it is talking about to help your anyone around.
Jul 21, 2010 Cookie rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
Great story on life and death. However, pretty confusing since I had NO CLUE what "Tone the Sweep" meant. I had to google it...and still was left clueless...I kind of know what it is now. If I were to use this story in my classroom, I'd have to build the schema for my kids.
Jun 20, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This little book masterfully shows it is not the length of a book but the crafting of words that counts. When I think of this book, I think of yellow. The depiction of the desert is so vivid the desert almost becomes a character.
Apr 17, 2011 Cheryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think this book is about appreciating the part of life you are currently in and
preparing to say goodbye to those you love who may be dying soon. It's a quiet book
about a 14 year old girl and her mother and grandmother and the friends they have made.
Sep 22, 2009 Franny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Young adult fiction that an adult could love. It's a little slow-moving at first, but worth the read. Great coming-of-age story for teenage girls (main character is 14). Won the 1994 Coretta Scott King Award.
Nov 20, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Girls Books Class, book 8.

Really liked this book. Complicated characters and writing that holds up to a critical eye.
Jan 25, 2016 Jinnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone dealing with loss; 'tweens; girls for the strong female role models
Loved this very short, concise novel about coming to grips with death and loss. Not morose. Thoughtful. Comforting. Alive.
I wish this story had delved a little more into her grandmothers illness and what happen to her grandfather. It would have had more impact that way.

It's still a solid book for younger readers.
Julie rated it really liked it
Sep 25, 2013
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“I don't know if I'd call either of them restless. Maybe hyperactive about some things. Anyway, I think as long as your soul is still attached to your body, it's impossible for it to be restless. I think you go where your spirit takes you.” 0 likes
“It's not so reasonable, Emmie, to believe you know everything about everyone's life. So how can you be disappointed at something that happened so long ago. You're angry because you know you have no right to be angry.” 0 likes
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