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Shadow Baby

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  1,380 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
Eleven-year-old Clara is struggling to find the truth about her missing father and grandfather and her dead twin sister, but her mother refuses to talk. When Clara begins interviewing Georg Kominsky--her elderly neighbor--she finds that he is equally reticent about his own concealed history. Precocious and imaginative, Clara invents versions of Mr. Kominsky’s past, just as ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 6th 2001 by Picador (first published 2000)
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Nicole Peoples
Apr 24, 2007 Nicole Peoples rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: hmm... younger kids
#1. I suck at writing reviews of. . . anything and this is my first review of a book on here.
Shadow Baby is not long, but it took me longer to read than almost any book I've ever read. The book is narrated by Clara Winter, a girl of 11 or so. Frankly, it was hard reading a naive girls account of self exploration. She is an unreliable narrator and she knows it. It was hard for me to force my way through her multiple fictitious realities, her diatribes on why she likes certain words, and the crux
Jul 27, 2007 Kristen rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
Did I mention that I cried. I was reading it while waiting at the beauty salon and continued while sitting in the hairdresser's chair, all the time crying. I stopped reading, so my tear ducts had a chance to dry a little, but I couldn't wait long enough. The moment I started reading again, tears were just streaming down my face. The shampoo girl finally gave me another towel and I finished the book, covered with tears. So if you need a good cry and you are either in place where no one can see yo ...more
Jun 22, 2017 Becca rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Well I just loved Clara. What a unique, flawed little character who lives in story and words. I could see her fully alive in the author's mind....funny, precocious and tragic.

The plot left some things to be desired and whoever came up with tbe title should be slapped, but as a character study / coming of age book, this is great. If I were a middle school English teacher, I'd add this to a reading list right quick.
Jan 23, 2016 Marvin rated it liked it
This beautiful novel (highly recommended by my wife) is narrated by a precocious 11-year-old girl, a lover of words, stories, and books who lives with her single mother in upstate New York, near Utica. She befriends an "old man," an illiterate immigrant metalworker who lives in a trailer court. He is in nearly every way her opposite: illiterate, a man of few words, but a keen observer of the beautiful and practical. She comes to admire him and sees herself as his apprentice in understanding the ...more
Dec 12, 2016 Gretchen rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I didn't like this book. I finished out of respect to my book club and being able to have a conversation. I was happy to get closure out of the book and would have loved to have an alternate perspectives of Tamar and the old man in this book.

I honestly didn't see a purpose to this book as it felt like "a year in a life" of a child that struggled to separate truth and fiction.
Jul 15, 2009 Koz rated it really liked it
Worst title ever. I am practically embarrassed to tell people the title. Every time I did, I'd have to give a disclaimer that it's way better than it sounds.

It's an excellent book. Very well written. I love Clara, the protagonist. Clara from this book and Oskar from "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" should get married. Clara is funny, sweet, heartbreaking and brilliant.

So well done.
Miss Grace
Oct 17, 2008 Miss Grace rated it really liked it
The author doesn't really understand chicken behavior, but that is a relatively minor plot point.
Jun 17, 2017 Sondra rated it it was ok
This may have been one of the worst books I've read. I felt like the author was trying too much. Trying to sound deep and descriptive, but ended up having a main character who was pretty annoying. The beginning had so little plot that I skipped ahead to see anything of substance happened. I found the middle interesting, so I trucked on ahead only to find the end mired down down in fake strokes and endless repetition of what happens to the old man again and again. I love reading but hate when boo ...more
The synopsis kind of goes like this:

Meet Clara winter (yep, ‘winter’ is her last name). She hates winter, so she hates spelling her name with a capital ‘w’. She’s an eleven-year old girl who lives with her mother of iron will, Tamar, in their humble settlement in some kind of a mountainous place (with frequent snowfall during winter). Clara loves reading books, particularly those that tell the (hi)story of the pioneers, and lusts for words that aren’t used or spoken often. Because of her love fo
Dec 03, 2016 Kris rated it really liked it
Wow, I really zipped through this one, such a wonderful story with well developed characters. I loved how Clara was different without being labeled as such.
Chris Gager
Jan 07, 2012 Chris Gager rated it liked it
Started this morning but had to head for work. It's time for some gender balance in my list, which tends to be male author heavy. Seems interesting so far but I'm a bit concerned after looking at some Goodreads reviews. Have any guys read this book???
Done now after another one-night read. This will be my first pre-composed review. I don't know if I'll keep doing it or go back to improvisation with notes. I took a night off from books last night for this and other stuff including a great story i
Abby Lyn
Jul 03, 2014 Abby Lyn rated it liked it
Clara is an isolated, rather awkward eleven year old living in the foothills of the Adirondacks who loves stories, reading and words. She befriends an old immigrant metal worker who lives in a trailer park and forms an instant connection with him, and her overactive imagination weaves intricate stories about his life when he refuses to open up about his childhood. Like the old man, Clara's mother Tamar is also reluctant to reveal her past. Clara only discovered that her twin sister died at birth ...more
Mar 05, 2012 jimtown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childhood
Quirky and irrepressible Clara at eleven years old, has many unanswered questions. Her mother blatantly refuses to answer most of Clara's questions. Clara tries many methods to squeeze her questions in and once in a great while she gets a small bit of information.

Clara winter is a strange girl they say. She makes up stories and book reports about people and places way beyond what should be her realm of knowledge, for Clara is a word person. She spells her last name with a lower case w because wi
Joan Colby
Dec 14, 2011 Joan Colby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once you are able to suspend disbelief—that an 11-year old could be quite as precocious as Clara—this is an engaging story. Clara’s main goal is to discover who her father and grandfather are and why her twin sister died at birth. Her mother Tamar won’t answer these questions. As a consequence, Clara, a born storyteller, invents tales to satisfy her imagination; that her grandfather is a hermit in the Appalachian woods for instance. Much of Clara’s tales stem from her reading of such stories as ...more
Sep 16, 2011 Alexandra rated it liked it
Shadow Baby is one of those books that you kind of have to be in the mood to read, I think.
But there is no way to really tell beforehand if you are in the mood for it, if all you have to go by is the description on the back.

It has a very somber feel to it. It takes place in a town called Sterns, New York where Clara winter (yes, she spells her last name with a lowercase w) lives with her mother. The town is very rundown and poor. Many people live in broken down trailers and drive rust mobiles.
Kristi Fenske
Dec 12, 2011 Kristi Fenske rated it really liked it
On a whim, I picked up this book at a library book sale. Not my usual choice in books so I was leary when I started it, and even more so when I read what other's thought of it. After a few chapters in I was hooked. I loved the main character Clare winter. Clare, an eleven-year-old way beyond her years was a breath of fresh air. I know there were others who felt the character was not a believable child character, however I found it to be quite refreshing and reminicent of characters in earlier li ...more
I didn't like this book. I found it kinda hard to read. Not in the material was over my head, or that there were a lot of words that I didn't understand, but in the fact the way the main character Clara winter narrates her story. It was difficult to know what was real and what was something that she made up. But on the other hand, Clara is only 11 years old. And a lot of the time, at that age, kids will make up things in their mind to explain something. And that I completely understand.

Clara liv
Nov 10, 2012 Susan rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Nelson
Jul 24, 2012 Karen Nelson rated it really liked it
I liked this book very much. I usually do enjoy books written in the voice of a child (and/or juvenile), I just can't help myself.
This book was particularly well written, this child (Clara, 11 years old) reminded me of my own child (Cleveland, 8 years old) although some of the things about her were hard to believe (do 11 year old's really think and talk in such adult terms?) Some do.
Throughout the book, the reader is kept going and curious about the "missing" information concerning family and c
May 22, 2010 marymurtz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book---such excellent writing, and the main character's voice was so compelling. Yes, another narrative from a precocious 11-year-old. But this story kind of blew me out of the water. Clara winter (she insists on a lowercase pronunciation of her last name) lives with her single mother and makes friends with Georg (NOT "George" she reminds people. He's an immigrant and his name is Georg), an elderly man who is a tinsmith living in a trailer home. She befriends him ostensibly to interview him ...more
Beth Anne
May 19, 2008 Beth Anne rated it it was ok
i read this book in two sittings. it's very easy to read. and i'm not sure i really liked it. i mean, it was well written, the story was cute. characters pretty likable, i guess.

the main character, i know, i know, was supposed to be this 11 year old girl who admittedly "didn't talk like any other 11 year old." she's wise beyond her years, and all that crap. but i didn't really believe it. no 11 year old would, or could, for that matter, speak like she did. and it made the book a bit unbelievabl
Jun 26, 2013 Merredith rated it liked it
Have you ever read the Anne of Green Gables series? I'll bet the author has. The girl in this book is just like Anne Shirley. She even talks the same way, and the relationship she forms with an old man is very Anne Shirley like too. This precocious girl with no real friends, befriends someone her grandpa's age while she also obsesses over a family secret about her dead twin sister. A lot of things could have improved if the people in this book were open with each other. It is a good story, I rea ...more
Dec 15, 2009 Kari rated it it was amazing
An excellent recommendation from a friend! Clara winter (yes, she likes the lower case W) is 11 and longs to know the story of her life including more about her father, her grandfather and a dead baby sister. She loves words and writing and uses stories as a way to escape realities and create a world she hopes would be true. She befriends an old metalworker and their friendship teaches her about live, loss and growing up. The story takes place in the southern hills of the Adirondacks near my hom ...more
May 17, 2015 Hailey rated it really liked it
I truly enjoyed this novel; it's amazing to follow along with Clara as she goes through her journey trying to find information about her father and sister. The bond and friendship Clara makes with her elderly neighbor, Georg Kominsky, is inspiring. Clara finds out about Kominsky's past and what it was like to live in his old country that doesn't exist anymore. She tries to re-patch her relationship with her mother and make things right but will that ever happen? Will she find her sister and fath ...more
May 30, 2007 Shelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!!!! I read it in one day coming back from vacation. Clara winter is a great character. She's an odd little girl who befriends an old man. Clara winter and the old man have lots in common including their hatred of winter, which is ironic b/c they both live in upstate NY in the Adirondack Mtns where they endure some of the harshest winters and is the same season which shares Clara's last name. They both have their reasons for their feelings towards winter and the reasons unfold bea ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Charli rated it did not like it
I actually couldn't even finish this book. I tried hard to keep myself interested but I eventually gave up and moved on to something else. The writing isn't necessarily bad as much as it is unimaginative. The common theme rests in the over used sentence from the book (not a verbatim quote, but the gist is) 'you might think someone my age doesn't know blah blah blah but I do.' That got old pretty quickly. So, if you've got the patience to read a book written by, and apparently about, someone that ...more
Oct 11, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
Realistic fiction. 243 pages. This is the story of 11 year old Clara Winter, a very curious and determined little girl. Clara interviews and becomes friends with Georg Kominsky, a retired immigrant metalworker, for a school biography project. She is obsessed with the lives of early American pioneers and also likes to invent the truth if she doesn't get satisfactory answers to her questions. It was a confusing read at times, trying to distinguish the truth from her lies, and I needed to backtrack ...more
May 02, 2008 Lesley rated it liked it
This story is told from the perspective of an 11 year old girl, so it is often hard to get past some of the "elementary" language the author uses. I don't know many 11 year olds who speak like Claire does, but then again, the child is a strange one. The story itself is interesting enough to follow and the relationship Claire has with the "old man" is very touching. Claire's mother keeps a lot of secrets from her daughter, which is the whole basis for the story. All in all, not a bad book, the To ...more
Apr 21, 2014 Sharyl rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
This was a very enjoyable, engaging read. The protagonist is an eleven-year-old girl named Clara winter (she prefers to give her last name a small w, and she has her reasons), who is extremely clever, and a bit of a word freak. You will like her, I promise. She does not have many people in her life, a fact she endeavors to understand, but she has many imaginative theories. In fact, Clara's creative mind gives birth to a multitude of stories about everyone and everything around her. Her persisten ...more
Jan 16, 2008 Beth rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary_fiction
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The narrator is supposed to be twelve years old, looking back to a year earlier. She's an odd, precocious child obsessed with her unknown father and grandfather and her twin sister, who died when she was born (her mother, who seems until the very end cold and unemotional, refuses to tell her anything). I bought some of the dialogue and characterization, but some of it went just too far to believe. I know smart, precocious, odd children with difficult f ...more
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Alison McGhee writes novels, picture books, poems, and essays for all ages, including the forthcoming novel Never Coming Back (out in October 2017) and the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller SOMEDAY, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in Minneapolis, California and Vermont.
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“If you know how to read, you know how forever. You can't unread.” 1 likes
“Clara Winter," he said. "You are a word person and don't ever forget it."
He was right. He knew. He could tell. It's something that can be sensed. There's a difference between word-people and non-word-people.”
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