The story is about two middle school girls and is told in alternating views. One is free verse and the other is traditional. Foster care, autism, family dynamics, addiction, Quaker school, simplicity, stealing like Robin hood to help the poor are all part of this book. The story dragged a little and I wanted it to move along. Otherwise, I liked it. Great for Middle school and division 2.
I love author Linda Sue Park even more because she loved reading “Little House” as much as I did as a kid. This book is her adult response to challenge the racism in Wilder books and then give a diverse perspective to an American pioneer story.
Park writes about a father, Ben, and his daughter, Hanna, who arrives in a small town in Dakota Territory in the 1880s to open a dress shop. They are coming from California and looking for a new life after the death of Hanna's mother. Hanna is half-Chinese. Unfortunately, she encounters lots of people who are unwelcoming to her and refuse to have any contact with her. People even keep their children away from the school she is eager to attend. Hanna's dream is to assist her father in the clothing shop they are opening by using the seamstress skills that she learned from her mother. Many people she encounters are not open to a Chinese person in their midst. Will they end up having to leave with all of their work and dreams dashed?
Encounters with Native Americans is one of the plot points in this book. Park is careful to show how Hanna is respectful and empathetic to the people she makes friends with. The author's notes at the end explain how Park did much research and had many people help her to get the scenes just right. (I recognized many of the experts from her list!)
Many of the scenes take place in the schoolhouse. I imagined a place similar to the “When Calls The Heart” television show. Even though there are a lot of tough things in this story...I still got the warm pioneer story vibes from this book. Kids may not be reading Wilder books as much anymore, but fans of “When Calls The Heart” might really enjoy reading this one. This book is a great addition to the frontier life genre and adds much-needed diversity.
3 stars | The Pumpkin War | Cathleen Young | 2019 | IL 4-6
This story takes place on Madeline Island in Wisconsin on Lake Superior. Every year they have a pumpkin race in the fall. People grow large pumpkins and then hollow them out and use them as a boat for the race. 12-year-old Billie is convinced that her best friend Sam purposely did something to cause her to lose in the past year. She had not been friendly with him since that time.
The story takes over summer from planting to harvest time. Billie is part Ojibwa and many of the things she does come from her heritage....such as powwows, her grandmother's stories, and some of the food she cooks and eats. She also works hard keeping bees, fishing, and managing her pumpkins. Her father's estranged father comes to visit and Billie learns about forgiveness.
This is a short book with a lot packed into it. When it came to describing beekeeping or pumpkin growing or many of the activities that Billie does the reader does not get much help in understanding it. So many times I thought this would make a good video so I could see the honey processing or other tasks that Billie does. I wanted more description for the reader.
I thought Billie lived an amazing life and I loved the setting since I have visited several times. I don't think they really have pumpkin races though. I don't think the author is Ojibwa and so this is not an own voices book. I wanted to love this cozy fall book but it fell a bit short for me.