Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week  . . .

Dear America: Down the Rabbit Hole the Diary of Pringle Rose, Chicago, Illinois 1871 by Susan Campbell Bartoletti -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

When Pringle Rose's parents are killed in a tragic carriage accident, she and her little brother Gideon are left to the care of cruel relatives. Pringle's only comfort is her new friend, a scandalous young man nicknamed "Rabbit" for his ability to quote from Pringle's favorite book Alice in Wonderland. She worries about Gideon, who has Down's Syndrome. He seems to have withdrawn inside himself and Pringle doesn't know how to reach him. When their aunt and uncle decide to send Gideon away to a special school Pringle knows she has to act fast to save her brother. They flee by train to their mother's friend in Chicago. Pringle knows she's doing the right thing. Her mother never wanted to send Gideon away. Along the way they befriend a young family also traveling to Chicago. The Pritchards help Gideon and Pringle in more ways than one. When their safety net is broken, Pringle and Gideon are left to navigate Chicago alone during the Great Fire. This book is not one of the better entries in the series. The first third of the book takes place in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Rose is a wealthy coal mine owner. The middle part takes place on a train and the third part in Chicago with the last few pages dedicated to the fire. It makes for a different story than what I expected. The plot is very slow moving and not much happens and the story is wrapped up too quickly and neatly. There's also quite a lot of Christian content in the story. Pringle's mother was apparently deeply religious and there are many quotes and references to Bible verses and stories that left me clueless. The premise of the story is based on something the author read in the Bible. The Christian content was a turn-off for me and had I known, I probably wouldn't have read the book. The characters are not very likeable. Pringle comes across as prickly and snobby. She doesn't seem to have any sympathy for the coal miners but simply accepts what she's been told. This would be historically accurate, if it wasn't mentioned that her father liked to debate with her. She clearly never learned to see the other side of the issue. Aunt Adeline and Uncle Edward are stereotypical storybook villains. Uncle Edward is lazy and defers to his strong-minded wife. The only one I liked was Gideon. He wasn't a very well-rounded character, but his scenes were touching and sweet. I would recommend this book probably to Christian homeschool students for a history lesson on charity, children with special needs, labor relations, travel, and the Great Chicago Fire. I've read other, better books about the fire.

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