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by Barbara Hathaway

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-36300-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

This Depression-era gem, a follow-up to Hathaway’s debut (Missy Violet & Me, 2008), offers a child's-eye view on America’s racial inequities.

Like its predecessor, the novel utilizes the epistolary format with minimal narration. Viewed primarily through the lens of young Viney, the letters feel real, as though discovered in an old cigar box. Viney updates Missy Violet, a midwife traveling to care for a sick relative, on everything from the sour disposition of her schoolteacher to a fearful encounter in the woods with the Ku Klux Klan, from the hilarious wedding of a homely spinster to the courtship of a curmudgeonly codger called “Som Grit” with the honest simplicity of one who has lived these events. Missy Violet's responses are measured and reassuring. Hathaway’s tone never surpasses a child’s reckoning, allowing readers to respond to its gentleness and the authenticity of its voices. She imbues delicate little passages with more love than a Valentine and weaves difficult bits of history into everyday life, reminding readers that America was born from hard times and that its people continue to develop roses amid thorns.

Like a warm cup of alphabet soup, this offering packs several essential ingredients—hope, love, despair, courage, family, honor—into a hearty, child-size blend. (Historical fiction. 6-9)