The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less: After she failed at running her Uncle Chester’s farm, Hattie Brooks is now working in a boardinghouse in Great Falls, Montana in 1919. Seeking to become a big city reporter, she makes her way to San Francisco with an acting troupe. She also wants to meet one Ruby Danvers, who apparently was very close to her uncle, and find out the background of their relationship. Through her pluck and determination, Hattie makes great progress in her career as a reporter, taking a ride in a new Boeing airplane and even meeting Woodrow Wilson. But Hattie must eventually make a choice between staying in San Francisco or following her true love Charlie.
My Take: Having not read Hattie Big Sky, I still felt that this was a fine, well written book about a girl trying to make it in the big city in the early 20th century. I can’t say that it was the most exciting book that I’ve read, the narrative is driven more by the relationships that Hattie makes rather than any action, but girls will find a lot to like in the character of Hattie. Ages 9+
One Interesting Note About the Author: According to her website, Kirby Larson originally wrote Hattie Big Sky inspired by her great-grandmother’s homesteading experience in eastern Montana.
The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less: Red O’Sullivan is a senior at Hatley High School in a mining town in Arizona in the fall of 1950. He is also the quarterback for the Hatley Muckers, who haven’t made a push for the title since 1941, when Red’s brother Bobby was QB. Bobby’s death in World War II exacerbated his father’s drinking and his mother’s loss of sanity. Red hopes to redeem his school and his family by leading his team to the championship cup. But larger forces at work; the Korean War is raging, the mine is closing, and the school is shutting down.
My Take: The Korean War. The mine closing. The school shutting down. The alcoholic father. The insane mother. The dead brother. The corrupt priest. Wallace piles on a mountain (no pun intended) of trouble onto the protagonist. By the middle of the book, I began feeling like perhaps this was all too much, as if the book were a parody of some blue collar nightmare set in the southwest. Or perhaps this was Friday Night Lights in Arizona. I believe that a tighter focus on fewer problems may have yielded a more powerful read. However, I commend Wallace for offering the reader an unfamiliar time and place in history. Sports fans and history buffs may enjoy this book. Ages 12+
One Interesting Note About the Author: Sandra Neil Wallace was for many years an ESPN sports announcer. According to her website, her favorite ice cream is Tiger Tiger (a mix of licorice and orange sherbert!). It is a flavor easily found in Canada but not the United States.