A story that, like Cooney's Miss Rumphuis
(1982) and Island Boy
(1988), presents the life of an idiosyncratic character in the context of a historical setting. Hattie's parents, German immigrants, are already wealthy; Papa, who is "in the woodwork business," has built a beautiful house with gleaming paneling in every room. There are servants, a summer "cottage" at Far Rockaway, and—as time goes on—ever more luxurious surroundings. Quietly undeterred by affluence, Hattie makes a good friend of the cook's granddaughter and, as an inveterate artist who has always been inspired by the sea, grows up to enroll in art school—not "just like Opa" (her mother's father, a painter) but, as Hattie says, "Just like me." Hattie's Papa, like Cooney's grandfather, builds a fine Brooklyn hotel where the family later lives. This engaging piece of fictionalized family history is graced with Cooney's usual fine illustrations, with fluent, perfectly balanced compositions, delectable, lucid color, and nifty authentic detail. A disarming portrait that makes clear that wealth is incidental to a happy, creative life.
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