THE HARVEY GIRLS

THE WOMEN WHO CIVILIZED THE WEST

According to Morris, the railroad trip west wasn't worth taking until a young Englishman, Fred Harvey, began providing food along the way. Harvey, who started out in New York as a ``pot walloper'' (dishwasher), longed for his own first-class restaurant. When he took a job as a railroad freight agent to finance his dream he saw a chance to replace the notoriously bad station cafe food with fine fare in quality restaurants. ``Harvey Houses'' on the Santa Fe line became legendary not only for their meals but also for sterling service by waitresses recruited and trained in the ``Harvey way.'' Farm girls, widows, immigrants, adventurers—they answered Harvey's newspaper ads for attractive and intelligent young women ``of good moral character,'' lived in dormitories, donned smart uniforms, and served cowpokes and miners from Kansas to California. Retired waitresses report a happy, convivial life and a demanding but fairly enlightened employer who offered opportunities (primarily to whites) for advancement and education through booms and busts. Before the decline of passenger trains after WW II, some 100,000 spunky young women had worked in 100 Harvey establishments, pioneering the way West for other working women. Interesting b&w photos (with brief captions) amplify the cheerful text; source notes; bibliography; index. (Nonfiction. 10+)

Pub Date: June 27, 1994

ISBN: 0-8027-8302-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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A YEAR DOWN YONDER

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 2

Set in 1937 during the so-called “Roosevelt recession,” tight times compel Mary Alice, a Chicago girl, to move in with her grandmother, who lives in a tiny Illinois town so behind the times that it doesn’t “even have a picture show.”

This winning sequel takes place several years after A Long Way From Chicago (1998) leaves off, once again introducing the reader to Mary Alice, now 15, and her Grandma Dowdel, an indomitable, idiosyncratic woman who despite her hard-as-nails exterior is able to see her granddaughter with “eyes in the back of her heart.” Peck’s slice-of-life novel doesn’t have much in the way of a sustained plot; it could almost be a series of short stories strung together, but the narrative never flags, and the book, populated with distinctive, soulful characters who run the gamut from crazy to conventional, holds the reader’s interest throughout. And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown ego or deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn’t an option. The first-person narration is infused with rich, colorful language—“She was skinnier than a toothpick with termites”—and Mary Alice’s shrewd, prickly observations: “Anybody who thinks small towns are friendlier than big cities lives in a big city.”

Year-round fun. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2518-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY

From the Joey Pigza series , Vol. 1

If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos's new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-33664-4

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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