KITTEN ON THE KEYS by Caryll Egerer Moore


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Moore’s debut middle-grade novel, inspired by stories of her mother's childhood, follows a girl as she grows up in small-town California during the 1910s.

Thirteen-year-old Rosie lives with her parents, two older brothers, and two younger sisters in a converted railroad depot, where her father works as flagman. Her favorite activity is running, much to her mother’s chagrin; every day when the train comes by, she tries to “beat the caboose to the wild raspberry patch,” and every day, she gets a little closer to her dream of entering and winning the City Championships. At her Catholic school, Rosie is delighted when Sister Bridget starts teaching the girls track, and soon, a rivalry develops between her and snooty Gloria Armbruster. Gloria is so determined to win, in fact, that she shoves Rosie at the City Championships, causing her to break her leg. Unable to run for some time, Rosie is at a loss for another hobby until she discovers the piano. At first, she’s limited to practicing on a cardboard set of keys at home, as her family can’t afford a piano of their own—but with love and hard work, they find a way. Moore’s book is consciously old-fashioned, offering a slice of life, not a driving plot. Along the way, it effectively details what people did for fun before the advent of modern entertainments: for example, Rosie and her siblings stage circuses in the barn; joy ride in a Ford Model T, or “Tin Lizzie”; and sing and dance along with popular tunes of the day, such as the sprightly Zez Confrey rag of the title. The timeline is somewhat muddled—Rosie first wants to qualify for the running championships in 1910, but only two years pass before her eldest brother, Pete, goes off to fight in World War I, which actually began in 1914; the United States didn’t enter the war until three years after that. Still, Rosie is a plucky and pleasant heroine who’s easy to root for, and young readers who want a break from epic plots will enjoy spending some quiet time in her world.

A warm, wholesome coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Dec. 28th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4973-8225-1
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2017


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