More than a decade after she introduced the title character in the Newbery Honor–winning Our Only May Amelia (1999), Holm delivers a sequel, set again in the wilderness of Washington State in 1900. As in the first book, the author draws upon and was inspired by the history of her own Finnish-immigrant ancestors' experiences toughing it out in that area over a century ago. A year has passed since the first book; May Amelia is now 13. Times are hard, though family closeness, hard work and sheer grit hold the Jacksons together—along with Pappa's iron will. Then the family loses everything when Pappa becomes the unwitting victim of a land swindle. May Amelia, having translated during negotiations because she is the best English speaker in the family, is accused by her father of not fully understanding and conveying the con artist's smooth talk. All is not grimness, however. Holm incorporates warmth, humor, excitement and even a wedding into her story. Though the novel ends a little too neatly, albeit happily, Holm gets her heroine just right. Narrating events in dryly witty, plainspoken first-person, this indomitable teen draws readers in with her account, through which her world comes alive. Readers who enjoyed the first novel should embrace May Amelia again and may well believe that the only "trouble" with her is that the sequel didn't happen sooner.ÃÂ (Historical fiction. 9-13)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Anyone interested in learning to write crowd-pleasing historical fiction for elementary school readers would be wise to study Holm's work. Since Our Only May Amelia (HarperCollins, 1999), Holm has collected three Newbery Honors, and this sequel demonstrates her mastery of writing a complete, exciting story in a trim novel. Twelve-year-old May Amelia Jackson lives on a farm in Washington State in 1900 with her parents, Finnish immigrants, and a passel of brothers. Life is hard, but Holm works humor into even the grimmest situations, and Gustavson's chapter-opening spot art adds a cozy, atmospheric touch. A ransacking bull (named Friendly) knocks down the outhouse (with May Amelia inside); suitors romancing Miss McEwing are sent packing in various, inventive ways lest the school lose its beloved teacher. Judicious use of Finnish phrases adds flavor, and details ground the story in an era when boys were still routinely "shanghaied" (involuntarily pressed into service on ships bound for Asia). "Best Brother" Wilbert tells her she's as irritating as a grain of sand in an oyster, and it's mighty fun to watch May Amelia morph into a pearl. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-7--Holm reunites readers with the protagonist of Our Only May Amelia (HarperCollins, 1999). It is 1900 and the 13-year-old lives with seven brothers on the family farm along the Nasel River in Washington State. What is the "trouble" with May Amelia? Everything, according to her father, beginning and ending with her gender. Nevertheless, she possesses "sisu," Finnish for "guts and courage." It carries her through the continued sorrow over the death of her baby sister; the loss of the farm due to a phony land-development scheme; and the shame and blame her family receive as a result. At a time when life is harsh and prejudices are expressed through the use of words like "Chinamen," for Chinese townspeople, and "shanghaied," May Amelia, like Turtle in Holm's Turtle in Paradise (Random, 2010), is less an "irritating grain of sand" than she is a pearl. Both girls possess a talent for saucy quips and sensitive interiors where pain runs deep, but that never overtakes either heroine completely. These girls come from very different, extremely difficult periods in U.S. history, yet their stories read as extensions of one another. While some readers may find these three books too similar, others will find them satisfying.--Tracy Karbel, Chicago Public Library[Page 174]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.