JUST IMAGINE by Pat Lowery Collins


Age Range: 10 - 12
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During the Great Depression, Mary Francis’s family is split up when her mother wants to hang onto her dreams of showbiz success for little brother Leland, and her father is afraid not to take a job across the country. In the tug-of-war between fears and dreams, Mary Francis takes a cue from her spiritualist relative, great-aunt Nora, and practices separating herself mentally from her body in times of stress. Unlike most Depression fiction, this family is not facing poverty, but there is no extra and the economy affects their choices. The move of Mary Francis, her grandmother, and her father to New England—leaving her mother and brother behind in Beverly Hills—is made without much consideration of the daughter. The constant bickering of the adults plays out as Mary Francis tries to adjust to a new school, neighborhood, and climate as well as a new home. There’s a comic tone to this drama. Mary Francis gets excited about the band at school only to be disappointed that an accordion is not regarded as a regular instrument. Attending an advertised séance disappoints in the spirits’ failure to respond helpfully. When Grandma massacres her hair, Mary Francis endures the joking at school in an out-of-body state until she finds herself able to return to earth and bear the kidding. In that isolation that children feel when the adults are otherwise occupied, it becomes logical that getting her own talent recognized is paramount. Mary Francis decides to play the accordion while on rollerskates at a talent contest in a hilarious but poignant scene. Well-rounded characters, a myriad of details grounding the story in time, and the emotional angst add up to entertaining historical fiction, with a contemporary feel. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-618-05603-3
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2001


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