Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

Hattie Ever After9780375850905_p0_v1_s260x420Hattie Ever After

Kirby Larson, Author

Delacorte Press, Fiction, 2013

Suitable for ages: 12-17

Themes: Self-reliance,  Orphans,  Dreams, Reporter, San Francisco, Friendships, Historical Fiction

Book Jacket Synopsis: Great Falls, Montana, 1919. When Hattie mails off her last check to Mr. Nefzger, her uncle’s debt is paid in full. Now she is free to go anywhere, away from Mrs. Brown’s boarding house and the less-than-glamorous life of a chambermaid.  Hattie’s dear friend Perilee urges her to do the sensible thing and join her family in Seattle. But Hattie is not prone to the sensible. What sensible girls would say yes to spending a year under Montana’s big sky trying to make a go of a long-lost uncle’s homestead claim? And what sensible girl would say no to Charlie, who is convinced he and Hattie are meant to grow old together?

For all its challenges and sorrows, Hattie’s time on the homestead gave her a taste of what it might be like to stake her own claim on life.  She hasn’t yet confessed it to anyone, not ever to Perilee, but Hattie has thrown a lasso around a dream even bigger than a Montana farm.  She wants to be a big-city reporter.  Thanks to a vaudeville vanishing act, a mysterious love token, an opera star, and her unique ability to throw a snake ball, it looks like Hattie just might have a chance.  And it is an opportunity for her to discover the truth about her “scoundrel” uncle and in the process learn more about herself.

What I love about this book:

  • Kirby Larson returns with a sequel to her Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky. She couldn’t leave her readers wondering what happened to her memorable character, Hattie Inez Brooks, after she leaves the Montana homestead.
  • The author brings history alive in this sequel, accurately recreating the setting for San Francisco in 1919. Readers will experience the inequality of women in the workplace, the shortening of dresses and bobbed hairstyles, an earthquake, the smells of China Town, the clanging of street cars, and the bay area before the Golden Gate Bridge is constructed.
  • Hattie’s character grows in self-confidence after her year on the prairie. She is spunky and even more determined to follow her dreams to become a big-city newspaper reporter in a man’s world, where women write society columns. That’s not for strong-willed Hattie, who pays her dues as she moves up from a fact finder at the Chronicle to covering baseball games,  rides in a Boeing seaplane, and snags an exclusive interview with President Woodrow Wilson.
  • Her story is packed with action and tension. There is a mystery, an unexpected betrayal , a romantic under current, and other twists that kept me quickly turning the pages.  Hattie Ever After is a very satisfying conclusion to Kirby’s Hattie Big Sky.  Hattie is no longer the orphan trying to find home.

Kirby Larson is the author of Hattie Ever After, Duke, Dash, The Fences Between Us and The Friendship Doll.  Check out Kirby Larson’s website and my reviews of Hattie Big Sky and Dash.

Keep Your Ear on the Ball – Perfect Picture Book

Keep Your Ear on the Ball

Genevieve Petrillo, Author

Lea Lyon, Illustrator

Tilbury House Publishers, Fiction, 2007

Suitable for:  Grades 3 to 6

Theme: Visual Impairment, Disability, Self-reliance, Sports

Opening/Synopsis:  “Davey looked like every other new kid that ever came into our class.  Ms. Madison walked him in and said, ‘Boys and girls, this is Davey.’  He was medium height.  He had medium brown hair and medium brown eyes.  A regular kid.”   When Davey asks the teacher if he can look around, he walks around the room touching the book-case, blackboard and his desk.   Davey is blind.  The students realize that Davey is very resourceful and can do just about everything the others do.  All of the kids try to be helpful and offer to do things for Davey.  His response is always “Thanks, but no thanks.”  When they play kickball, things escalate a bit and no one wants him on their team.

Why I like this book:  Based on a true story, Genevieve Petrillo has created a heartfelt story about how students respond to a blind student.   Lea Lyon’s illustrations are colorful, expressive and full of action.  Once again she uses students from a visually impaired classroom to act out scenes for her sketches.  Davey is determined to be self-reliant.  He doesn’t want anyone doing anything for him.  He wants the kids to see what he can do.  When he has difficulty playing kickball and still refuses help, the kids are frustrated.  But together they begin to observe Davey, recognize what he can do, and figure out how to help him in an unusual and respectful way.

Resources:  Click on Reach and Teach  for special classroom activities designed especially to go with Keep Your Ear on the Ball.   There is more information about the real Davey.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Just a reminder for May 7:   I will be interviewing NYT bestselling author Kristin Hannah about her new book Home Front.  There will be a book giveaway.  Her interview will launch my focus on Military Families in May. 

Books for Kids Going to Summer Camp

Camp K-9, written by Mary Ann Rodman and illustrated by Nancy Hayashi.   Recently published in May 2011, this charming book will sure to be a favorite among kids. Rodman attended summer camps as a child and later became a camp counselor.   The illustrations are in lovely pastels and set the tone for the book.  Hayashi began writing and illustrating her own books in third grade.

Roxie and her fellow dog campers are headed for Camp K-9.   But, Roxie has a secret she tightly guards in her pooch pouch — her blankie.   From the beginning she and all the campers are taunted by a white Standard Poodle, Lucy.   It’s rotten luck for Roxie when she is paired with the large canine trouble maker.  They share a bunk and are partners in many camp activities that include swimming, boating, and arts and crafts.   One day Lucy is missing.  The camp is in an uproar searching for  Lucy.   But, Roxie  finds Lucy and discovers that she has a secret.  Will she tell?

Plantzilla Goes to Camp, written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by David Catrow for kids 4-8 years of age.   I must say this is one of the most imaginative and vividly designed books I’ve run across.  The text is written in letters, post cards and telegrams.  It is  heartwarming with a very subtle message about friendship and self-confidence.  The illustrations are bold, colorful and quirky, which just adds to the total charm of the book.  Kids will love this book!  It is the second in a series, the first book is Plantzilla.

Mortimer Henryson is off  to Camp Wannaleaveee for a month.   He’s following family tradition and attending the  camp his father attended as a boy.  The only problem is that he’s not allowed to take along his pet.  For Mortimer this means he’ll be separated from his beloved  exotic plant, nicknamed Plantzilla by the kids in his class, and his dog.   His teacher offers to plant-sit and dog-sit.  At camp, Mortimer shares a cabin with a bully who is the biggest kid in camp.  He pleads to come home.  Plantzilla, sensing his friend is in trouble , shows up to camp.   That’s when the fun begins and many lessons are to be learned by all.

Cowboy Camp, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Mike Reed, for kids 4-8 years of age.  The illustrations are colorful, bold and humorous.  They beautifully support the text and western theme.   Cowboy Camp is another book kids will  identify with, and want to read again and again.

Avery knew the minute he arrived at Cowboy Camp, that he didn’t fit in.  All the kids were larger than he was, and had names like Hank and Jimmy Dean.  His belly heaved when he ate cowboy chow.  Even worse, he was allergic to horses.  How would he ever live up to Cowboy Dan’s expectations to act, walk and talk like a buckaroo.   Avery sits alone by the campfire one evening contemplating his situation, when he hears a strange noise and sees a shadow.   Avery acts in his own unique way, and  becomes the camp hero and  the bravest cowboy of all.

Going to summer camp is a rite of passage for children.  For many, it is their first time away from home.    I like these three books because they address all the fears and concerns kids face on their own.  They worry about not fitting in,  homesickness and  bullies.  There many good summer camps available to children including scouting, sports, horse, music and art, and  weight-loss camps.   Attending a camp can be a great way for kids to begin to build independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence.