Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I Read Last Weekend . . .

The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction 

Charlie Anne is growing up during the Depression in a small farming community in Massachusetts. She has lost her mother and now her father and older brother have left to go build roads up North. Charlie Anne and her siblings are left on the farm in care of her mother's bossy cousin Mirabel who is determined to teach the children manners, especially Charlie Anne. She doesn't give the children any time for fun - only chores and more chores, most of which go to Charlie Anne. Whenever she can slip away, Charlie Anne heads to the hill overlooking the river to have a conversation with her mother who is buried there. She pours out her feelings on the tough times and her mother responds with kindness and sympathy, teaching Charlie Anne how to be deal with tough times. When the neighbor, Mr. Jolly, remarries, his wife brings along color and kindness, along with her adopted daughter Phoebe, who happens to be "colored." Charlie Anne quickly finds a close friend in Phoebe. Rosalyn and Phoebe also help Charlie Ann gain the confidence she needs to learn how to read. Together, Charlie Ann, Phoebe and Rosalyn confront racism and classism in their small farming community.

I can't gush enough about this book. The writing is beautiful though the sentence structure is simple. The first person present tense voice was a bit awkward at first but I quickly got used to it. I thought the book was set in the South but the cataloging information says it's set in Massachusetts, which makes it very different from most of the northern-set Depression era kids books. The plot is interesting and engaging though you wouldn't think so because it doesn't have any grand action or adventure. I couldn't put it down. It teaches important life lessons a non-moralizing hit-you-over-the-head way. This is one of those MUST READS for everyone ages 10+. Some elements may be too harsh for younger children but it would make a good book to read to a 4th grade class. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this lovely review, and thank you also for what you wrote about Charlie Anne on Kirby Larson's blog. This means so much to a writer!
    All best, Kimberly Newton Fusco


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