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MARY SMITH by Andrea U’Ren Kirkus Star


by Andrea U’Ren & illustrated by Andrea U’Ren

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-34842-1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

U’Ren unearths a fascinating tidbit from the past. It seems that in days before mechanical alarm clocks were common in Britain, “knocker-ups” were hired to tap persistently on workers’ bedroom windows in the morning. Some used long sticks, window-washer style, but Mary Smith’s tool of choice was a pea shooter. Sound unlikely? Actual photos of Smith and another no-doubt-underappreciated community helper sandwich the author’s depiction of a large, confident looking woman making her morning rounds through a drowsy town, then returning home to find her own daughter under the covers—not late for school, fortunately, but sent home after trying to wake a sleeping classmate with her own pea shooter, and hitting the teacher instead. “We really must work on your aim,” laughs Mary, and the cheerful couple is last seen doing just that. This seamless blend of fact and fiction joins the likes of Sarah Wilson’s Three in a Balloon (1990) in lighting up a morsel of strange-but-true history. (afterword) (Picture book. 7-9)