Reviews for Waiting for the Queen : A Novel of Early America

Booklist Reviews 2013 November #1
It's a long way from the court of Versailles to the Pennsylvania wilderness in 1793, and a brutal culture shock for Eugenie, her parents, and other nobility who fled the French Revolution. Their arrival jolts young Quaker Hannah, who hires on with family to assist the expats and is expected to curtsy and act subservient to the royals. Higgins bases her story on an actual Pennsylvania settlement of French gentry who fled their homeland. Eugenie and Hannah narrate alternating chapters, offering sharply contrasting glimpses of what the French and Americans each held dear. The French naively await the arrival of Marie Antoinette, and their superior attitudes will incense readers who will figure that the royals are lucky to have gotten out with their heads. Eugenie's and Hannah's thought processes carry the story forward as they wrestle with notions of justice and gradually come together in friendship. Eugenie's transformation may seem a bit over the top as she embraces liberté, égalité, and fraternité, but the unique setting offers a fresh look at early America. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2013 - Fall Issue: September 1, 2013

Deserving of readers' interest and sympathy, these two girls transform miraculously under the gifted hand of Joanna Higgins.

In Joanna Higgins' first novel for young readers, Waiting for the Queen, thoughtfully created and dynamic characters give readers the unique perspectives and experiences of two very different girls during a less explored period in American history. Their journey to mutual understanding and commitment to equality unite the girls in a risky plan to ensure freedom for all in their community.

Eugenie de La Roque is horrified by her accommodations in America. The daughter of French nobles seeking asylum during the French Revolution, she's used to a host of servants and plush bedding, not tiny log cabins and one maid who does not even curtsy. Still, Eugenie knows she and her family are lucky to be alive after the violent revolt of the peasants in France.

As for the de La Roque's maid, she is a young Quaker girl named Hanna Kimbrell, who is hired--along with her brother, father, and other Americans--to work for the French. She is as mortified by the rude attitude of the French families as Eugenie is by her surroundings. Both girls grapple with their changing values as they become friends. When they see the harsh treatment of slaves, including a girl their own age, held by one of the noblemen, the girls are moved to do what they can to stop the vicious injustice.

Period details and historical events speak volumes about the careful research Higgins seems to have conducted. Everything from French hair fashions to American food storage is mentioned in an integrated way that creates rich realism. By including background information, such as Eugenie's account of the revolution in France, Higgins also ensures that readers unfamiliar with the related time and events have a context to help immerse them in the novel.

While her setting creates an authentic stage, the author's characters and their development will capture readers' interest. Each girl is sympathetic from the start, a difficult feat with Eugenie, who easily could have come across purely vapid or petty. Both girls struggle with balancing what they know and the values of their families with the internal changes their circumstances encourage. It is particularly rewarding to see Eugenie become so much more open-minded and independent. Though perhaps not as prominently, Hannah also develops, finding the courage to speak up on behalf of her family and the slaves she has always seen as her equals.

Though occasionally the subplots feel a little wayward, they are actually quite instrumental in depicting the naturally evolving understandings of some of the settlers and Eugenie and Hannah's friendship. There isn't an extremely heightened escape scene with the slaves or an artificially dramatic climax. Rather, the book is a chronicle of events and moments, some subtle, that realistically paint the girls' natural progression, as well the tone of the community.

Occasionally poetic language and themes of true human compassion, liberty, and courage top off this remarkable historical piece for middle school and, perhaps, early high school readers.

© 2013 ForeWord Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
In late-eighteenth-century rural Pennsylvania, Hannah, a Quaker, and Eugenie, a young French noblewoman, make an unlikely pair; they bond in risking their lives to help several escaped slaves. Alternating chapters depict both girls' points of view and reveal the characters' growth. Though the writing is inexpert, the book lends an interesting perspective. An author's note explains the real-life inspiration. Bib.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 July #2
Everyone in New France, a village in Pennsylvania, awaits Queen Marie Antoinette's arrival--as soon as she escapes the French Revolution. The ridiculously overdressed and sadly inept nobles and their families who have fled France with little but their lives believe that their queen will provide needed civility to the village their American hirelings are carving out of the Pennsylvania wilderness for them. Eugenie, 15 and haunted by the horrors they've escaped, arrives unprepared for the harshly primitive conditions they find, and she's annoyed by her unrealistic mother's matchmaking with an unpleasant young noble. In alternating chapters, her story is contrasted with that of Quaker Hannah, who, like her father and brother, has been hired to help the French out for a year but whose faith keeps her from the subservience the noblemen demand. The French have been joined by a Caribbean slaveholder and his four brutally mistreated slaves; this provides a catalyst for a developing friendship between the two girls, in spite of disdainful Maman's rejection of the American girl and her competently down-to-earth ways. The gradual, believable changes in both girls' characters add an appealing dimension to an engrossing depiction of this little-known episode. Based on actual events and richly immersive in the feel of the period, this effort rises above sometimes-awkward exposition to create a well-rounded, satisfying historical tale. (Historical fiction. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 August #2

Adult author Higgins's first work for children opens in 1793 Pennsylvania, while the French Revolution rages abroad. Fifteen-year-old noblewoman Eugenie de La Roque has just arrived at a French settlement in America with her family, distraught after her chateau was burned to the ground. Like her countrymen, Eugenie holds out hope that the queen, Marie Antoinette, will also escape the bloodshed. Hannah Kimbrell, a 13-year-old Quaker, has been chosen to help serve Eugenie's family, in order to support her own family. Hannah is confounded by the French refugees' language and their condescending and spoiled behavior, while Eugenie objects to the basic living conditions and the Quakers' simple, unsophisticated ways. When the girls witness a Frenchman's mistreatment of his slaves, they put aside their differences and work together to build a solid community. The story shifts between Hannah and Eugenie's well-developed and distinct perspectives, both of which strongly reflect their respective upbringings and cultures. A meticulously detailed work of historical fiction about the challenges of the new and unfamiliar, and about looking beyond oneself toward the greater good. Ages 8-13. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 August

Gr 6-10--Fifteen-year-old Eugenie de la Roque and her family flee the French Revolution for the woods of Pennsylvania, where their lives are very different from the elegant world they inhabited among the French nobility. Based on the true story of a group of families who sought asylum in Pennsylvania, this title vividly captures the hardships faced by the teen and her parents as they adjust to a life without luxuries. A group of Quakers guides the small band of settlers. Hannah Kimbrell is initially frustrated by the seemingly frivolous demands of the new arrivals, but she eventually begins a friendship with Eugenie. At first the two girls seem to have little in common, but a shared outrage over how a slave is treated at the hands of her owner brings them together. Alternating between Eugenie's and Hannah's viewpoints, the story is equal parts period novel and coming-of-age tale. Eugenie's growth as she begins to understand what is really important to her is beautifully and convincingly portrayed. The "Queen" of the novel's title is Marie Antoinette, and the glittering details about life at Versailles provide a dramatic contrast with Eugenie's refuge in 1793 America. This rewarding novel should be shared with confident readers who enjoy historical fiction.--Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

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VOYA Reviews 2013 August
Eugenie and her family flee France in 1793 and set sail for America, where Eugenie, a noble, expects fine dwellings, but is skeptical that the rough Pennsylvania wilderness will be home to the kind of life to which she is accustomed. Hannah, a young Quaker, is hired to help the new community of French Azilum, but immediately recoils at their presence. Hannah is upset that the French nobles come bearing slaves, and has a difficult time adjusting to curtseying to the newcomers after a lifetime of being taught everyone is equal. The two girls have nothing in common, but as time goes on, they find themselves in a surprising alliance. Eugenie risks her mother's scorn as she stumbles her way toward friendship with Hannah, and learns how to think about freedom, equality, and self-reliance. In turn, Hannah stands to lose nearly everything as she takes a stand against the harsh ways of the French nobility and plots to help her slave friends escape. The language of the period--full of "ye" and "thou" and "doth"--often makes the dialogue feel wooden and clumsy, and at times the plot drags. Higgins, however, crafts a compelling portrait of life after the French Revolution as readers witness a young woman arrive with one mindset--rude, entitled, classist, and close-minded--and grow to embrace new thoughts and ideals. An author's note explains the actual historical characters and situations surrounding the revolution and the French Azilum settlement, and a bibliography details materials consulted.--Amanda MacGregor 3Q 2P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.