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THE BALLAD OF LUCY WHIPPLE by Karen Cushman

THE BALLAD OF LUCY WHIPPLE

By Karen Cushman

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-72806-1
Publisher: Clarion

 The recent Newbery medalist plunks down two more strong-minded women, this time in an 1849 mining camp--a milieu far removed from the Middle Ages of her first novels, but not all that different when it comes to living standards. Arvella Whipple and her three children, Sierra, Butte, and 11-year-old California Morning, make a fresh start in Lucky Diggins, a town of mud, tents, and rough-hewn residents. It's a far cry from Massachusetts; as her mother determinedly settles in, California rebelliously changes her name to Lucy and starts saving every penny for the trip back east. Ever willing to lose herself in a book when she should be doing errands, Lucy is an irresistible teenager; her lively narration and stubborn, slightly naive self-confidence (as well as a taste for colorful invective: ``Gol durn, rip-snortin' rumhole and cussed, dad-blamed, dag diggety, thundering pisspot,'' she storms) recall the narrator of Catherine, Called Birdy (1994), without seeming as anachronistic. Other characters are drawn with a broader brush, a shambling platoon of unwashed miners with hearts (and in one case, teeth) of gold. Arvella eventually moves on, but Lucy has not only lost her desire to leave California, but found a vocation as well: town librarian. With a story that is less a period piece than a timeless and richly comic coming-of-age story, Cushman remains on a roll. (Fiction. 10- 13)