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by Betsy Byars

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-670-03576-9
Publisher: Viking

Amen, called Amie—so named because her father was still praying for a son after four daughters—is the winsome narrator, beginning at age six, of this gentle and thoughtful story. Amie loves words, loves to learn them, and loves to ponder what they mean in the context of her family at The Willows at the turn of the last century. Mama keeps mostly to her room, Papa is a stern, but loving Victorian paterfamilias, and Aunt Pauline is repressed and obnoxious. The twin Bellas, Arabella and Annabella, are the sisters closest in age to Amie, and they see the world aslant. Nearby lives a recluse named Mr. Tominski, whom Papa supplies with food and cares for in other ways, but the girls fear him even though all he seems to do is take care of a flock of doves. Grandmama comes to visit, and teaches the girls how to use a camera; Uncle William comes to visit, and tells them about the stars. A new baby brother is born. Their beloved dog Scout dies. Amie introduces her little brother to the grave of the sister who died after only ten days and the house gets electricity. Amie tries to use all the lovely new words she learns in poems to hold and express all of her tumultuous feelings about these events, especially the sad, unnecessary death of Mr. Tominski, whose story the family learns only after it’s too late. The lives of a well-to-do turn-of-the-century family are limned with attention to daily activities and daily joys and sorrows in a prose that ripples with clarity and sweetness and an underlying evolution of spirit. (Fiction. 8-12)