A teen in a small Colorado mining town in 1917 investigates a local legend with surprising results.
Thirteen-year-old Pearl helps her mother in the Silverheels Café and earns pocket money telling tourists about the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who selflessly nursed miners in an 1861 smallpox epidemic. When Josie Gilbert, a militant old suffragist, tells Pearl the real Silverheels wasn’t an altruistic heroine, Pearl reluctantly accepts Josie’s challenge: prove her wrong about Silverheels or distribute leaflets for the National Women’s Party. Pearl knows Josie irritates some of the locals—they find her criticisms of President Woodrow Wilson treasonous—and she’s determined to prove Josie’s wrong by questioning old-timers, looking at historical records and visiting Silverheels’ former haunts. But when Josie’s arrested during a public demonstration, Pearl discovers the real heroine of the Silverheels legend. Pearl’s lively narration reveals her transformation from an old-fashioned, romantic girl into a spirited, courageous champion. Mobley uses the legend of Silverheels to effectively “raise questions about the traditional roles of women and their sources of strength,” as she writes in her author’s note, against the backdrop of wartime Colorado.
An engrossing, plausible story of several unlikely feminist heroines with a touch of romance and intrigue. (Historical fiction. 10-14)