Book Reviews-Children's Lit
1994-2005 by Ed Dickerson, all rights reserved.
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Books about "Family"

On this page you'll find a traditional story of sisterhood, and two stories of "family" that transcend heartache and destruction.

I am indebted to my daughter, Shoshannah, for these reviews. Any errors are mine.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Elizabeth George Speare
Reading Level: 7
Interest Level: 11+

Theme: Dealing with injustice


A young woman named Katharine, who has just lost her Uncle who was her guardian since a young child, has to move to the Colonies hoping to find her mother's sister.

Katharine leaves a life of ease and comfort and enters the harsh and un-pampered life of the puritans.

As Katharine learns a new way oflife she also learns of the injustices of being different than anyone else in the colonies as she befriends an old Quaker woman named, Hannah. As Katharine learns more about life, she also finds the love of her life.

In the end she must fight for her own life, her dear friend Hannah's life, and the life of the man she loves.

Katharine has such spunk and fight that she always will fight for what she wants. She fights for her cousins' right to wear something pretty; the right for Prudence to have an education; and the right to love and marry the person that she truly loves.

I always thought her life to be the kind of life to live. She becomes the person that she wants to be, chooses the friends that she wants to have, and loves the one man that she truly loves. What more could I want for my life?

And the dream at the end where she realizes what she wants for herself, she doesn't want to marry John the preacher's apprentice, or William the Merchant's son, but her own Captain of a newly launched ship, always takes my breath away with its vivid imagery.

The best thing about this book is the development of Katharine' s character. She starts out as a flighty, ditzy girl who expects the world to be given to her on a silver platter, because it always has been in the past.

As Katherine faces the new-world and works along side of her relatives, instead of having slaves do the work for her, Katharine learns a new purpose in life. She becomes friends with other people, loyal and deep friendships that she risks her life for and is forever changed by.

As the book concludes, we don't see the same Kit who got on a boat on the spur of the moment to come to the colonies, but a woman who thinks out what she wants and acts out of experience and a new found gentleness.

The setting takes place in perhaps one of the most ignored time frames of Colonial history, the time of the Salem Witch Trials. This book opens up to see the whole story of why they took place, because of fear and ignorance, and the difficulty the people who were charged with witchcraft had in proving their innocence. And the value of having friends that would risk everything to prove the innocence of an accused friend.

The theme that ties the story together is the desire on Katharines' part to prove herself to the man that she loves. The ability of love to change lives, to change people and to create a desire to live for something more than oneself.

Katharine faces all of these frustrations through Nathan, the Captains son who she loves, Hannah, the Quaker woman who challenges her choices in life, and Prudence who needs the love of Kit to blossom and grow.

Reviewed by Shoshannah Dickerson

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A Deadly Promise
Joan Lowry Nixon
Reading Level: 4-9
Interest Level: 8+

Theme: Adventure; growing up


An eighteen year old girl and her little sister who is fifteen lose their mother to an illness. Their mother has run a boarding house for years, ever since their father went out west to seek his fortune in the gold rush. Sarah has promised her father in his dying breath to solve the mystery of a murder that her father has been accused of committing. Now that her father is dead, she must solve the mystery, the only clue she has is, "Remember your mother."

In this Colorado town that is attempting to restore order and justice to its troubled existence in the gold rush, she must help to bring about that order through the sleuthing out of her father's murder.

In the meantime Sarah is being pursued by Jeremy a newspaper reporter, and Clint, the stagecoach driver who brought her from the train to the mountains of Colorado. When she also must send for her sister, Suzannah, and start a life for themselves out west, things really get complicated.

Because Suzannah falls in love with Clint, and tells her sister that she doesn't need both men. In the end Sarah solves her father's murder and chooses to marry the one she is in love with, in spite of her sister's attempts to help her choose which one she loves. ;} ~

The setting in Colorado is quite authentic. From the seedy side of the west and the gambling halls, to the sweet mother type woman who runs the boarding house, the period and the changes coming to the west are all calculated. The gunfights, fistfights, and lynchings are documented, as well as the attempts of the upper crust to bring about civility and justice through proper entertainment and the law.

Details are very nicely integrated into the story. As the characters develop the plot unfolds more and more of the details are told.

This is a smooth story in the way that it is told, details about the father are discovered with Sarah, and not just dumped into her and our lap.

Reviewed by Shoshannah Dickerson

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A Stitch in Time
Anne Rinaldi
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading Level: 5-7
Interest Level: 10-12

Themes: Prospering in spite of adversity


A quilt is started by the daughter of one of the most influential merchants in town to include people and places and eventsthat are based on trust and are trusted by members of the family.

This man is one of the most evil in the town for he has only one favorite child, Thankful, who is nearly as mean and malicious as he. The of the children, Cabot, Abigail and Hannah who is the oldest,and tries to hold the family together.

Abigail falls in love with a captain on one of the boats that is constantly coming into the Massachusetts harbor. Hannah in spite of her father's great displeasure helps her younger sister elope. Hannah falls in love with Lawrence the son of her mother's and know her, own best friend, but Lawrence refuses to marry her until he can make his own way in the world.

This includes buying a boat from her father, and then paying it off by going to the west indies for black pepper, cargo that will help him financially the most, but is the most tW~ dangerous to receive.

Reviewed by Shoshannah Dickerson

Buy "A Stitch in Time" Now