Monday, February 18, 2013

danyelle recommends Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larsen

Have you ever finished a book and found yourself hoping that the author would NOT write a sequel, not because you didn't like the book, but because you loved it?  You know how it feels to immerse yourself in a story and live, albeit briefly, in another time and place, and come to know the characters so well that at the end of the story you are content to shut the cover and let them live on in your imagination, with their lives unfolding in a way that you feel they inevitably must?  When I feel like that about a book, I don't want anyone to interfere with the experience, even if that someone happens to be the characters' creator.  And so, I felt a little nervous picking up Hattie Ever After, the sequel to Hattie Big Sky.  One of the things I loved about the first Hattie book was the verity of Hattie's world where a plucky orphan learned hard lessons, developed friendships, and found her way in a world full of possibilities.  Whether celebrating small victories or struggling with big disappointments, Hattie felt genuine.  And, I'm happy to report, in Hattie Ever After, Hattie stays true to herself as she moves from her life in Montana to a new adventure.

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 manages to get 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.

Review copy received from the publisher.

Hattie Ever After
by Kirby Larson
Published by Delacorte Press
February 2013
Recommended for ages 10 and up

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read this one because I loved Hattie Big Sky. Hooray for well-done sequels!