Monday, February 18, 2013
danyelle recommends: Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larsen
Following her failed attempt at homesteading, Hattie wants to make a place for herself in the world, but she's torn between her feelings for Charlie, who has returned from the war, and her desire to do "grand things." The problem is she's just not sure where her place is. Hoping to become a reporter like Nellie Bly or Ida Tarbell, she accepts a job with a vaudeville troupe that takes her to San Francisco, where she wants to also uncover secrets from Uncle Chester's past. Hattie accepts a job as a cleaning woman at the Chronicle newspaper office; not what she came to the city for, but she has to start somewhere, and she knew it wouldn't be easy. She spends her lunch breaks searching the newspaper morgue for hints of Uncle Chester's life and tries to find a way to get a job reporting the news. But the hardest part of her new life is figuring out whom she can trust in the Golden Age of Con. With determination and a little luck, she finds her way into the newsroom, and along the way--despite betrayals and set-backs--she figures out what she wants from life.
Hattie's voice is warm and optimistic, peppered throughout with homespun similes that recall her time in Montana. She feels "as cantankerous as [her] old cow, Violet" (28), "the water rolls on as vast as Montana's sky," and she stands out "like a square of gingham in a fancy silk quilt" (33, 50).
Hattie takes the reader into 1919 San Francisco, describing with wonder the smells, sites, and sounds of the big city. In an author's note, Kirby Larson describes herself as a "compulsive researcher . . . studying old newspapers and atlases, and reading personal journals and accounts." It shows. She smoothly incorporates details about buildings, transportation, restaurants, and lodging into the story and creates a vivid image of a newspaper office. Even simple things like hats get detailed treatment: straw boaters tipped by businessmen, cloche hats covering "stylish bobs," wide-brimmed bonnets on mothers, and enormous satin bows atop girls' heads (36). All wonderfully combine to establish time and place.
After her adventure in San Francisco doing "grand things," Hattie moves on--as all of us do in our lives--to another. In my imagination, I can see her in her new home, tackling her new challenges. Best of all at the story's end, I knew that Hattie's story had unfolded as inevitably as it should have. Lucky for me, Ms. Larson wrote that sequel.
Hattie Ever After
by Kirby Larson
Published by Delacorte Press
Recommended for ages 10 and up