Mihaela must adapt to her new life on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula after emigrating from Croatia in the late 19th century.
Although Mihaela’s father left his farm in Croatia for the copper mines of Michigan to help support his family in the midst of a drought, his worsening eyesight makes it difficult to work. When American doctors can’t help, he asks his wife—an experienced healer—to join him, along with their three children. Based on author Carney-Coston’s great-grandparents’ immigration story, the tale follows the 11-year-old white girl as she adjusts to her new life: helping her mother run a boardinghouse for other copper miners; longing for her cousin, Katarina; and familiarizing herself with Michigan herbs to help her father see again. It certainly captures a moment in time, but the overall tone feels dated, and the story lacks drama; even when Mihaela’s brothers knock over a beehive and each receives manifold stings, the event happens offstage, and they are quickly healed before any real danger can set in. The ending also feels too neat, with Mihaela turning 12 and receiving a china doll for her birthday, along with the news that her entire family is moving to Michigan and that she can start going to school.
While middle-graders seeking pleasure reading will likely find the tale dull, extra materials—including a map, a glossary, historical images, and Carney-Coston’s own family recipes—add richness to this short novel, making it a good resource for classroom units on immigration. (Historical fiction. 8-12)