Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Jean Little

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-87593-7
Publisher: Viking

 A young Scottish orphan suffers doubts about the completeness of her acceptance into her adopted family in this pointed but comforting novel, set in the middle of the 19th century. After her mother dies in a street accident, four-year-old Elspet is taken in by the Gordons, the large family of her mother's childhood friend, and formally adopted two years later when her sailor father dies at sea. Having lost her only daughter to diphtheria, Ailsa Gordon welcomes Elspet lovingly, but the worm of doubt planted by Elspet's grandfather when he coldly suggests that she be sent to her father's people prevents her from feeling fully secure in the household. Elspet feels bereft again when the Gordons emigrate to the Canadian woods, leaving her cat and beloved matriarch Granny Ross behind, but gains a measure of solace from a new cat, and better yet, a new friend. Elspet's uncertainty years later suggests that she may never be completely free of it--but as long as she never has to look far for evidence that she is loved, her doubts can be allayed. The plot is predictable, and, except for a dreadful sea voyage, Little (His Banner Over Me, 1995, etc.) barely notes the daily details of pioneer life, but Elspet's character is conveyed by a distinct, individual voice, and the manner in which her security is repeatedly shaken by minor remarks or incidents drives home the fragility of her sense of belonging. (Fiction. 9-12)