Sunday, February 3, 2013

Review of Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

In Illinois we have a several state awards for children’s literature. The Rebecca Caudill award is geared towards 4th-8th graders and has twenty nominees each year. For the school year of 2008-2009, one title I was introduced to from that list was Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky – also one of the winners of the 2007 Newbery Honor. I’m going to be upfront when I tell you that I do not naturally gravitate towards historical fiction. When I was younger, yes, even in college. But now I tend to read fantasy or realistic fiction. So looking at it on the list made me pause but I didn’t get very excited about reading it.

And yet I did read it; I try and read every title before the school year begins. And as I started reading Hattie, I was completely transported. The voice of Hattie drew me in. I was in love with her spirit, her determination. I loved her relationship with her uncle, her friend Charlie, and her neighbors. I saw my own stubborn streak in her. I weeped when a certain death occurred towards the end of the book, cursing Ms. Larson and wondering why she had to write that scene. I had my heart broken for Hattie on more than one occasion. And at the end, I paused. This was no Disney ending, but it seemed real and true to the time.

As I finished the book I would find myself thinking of Hattie. What would happen to her now? Many students and I discussed it. Many of us wanted to know more about Charlie. Would they end up together? And for many years, there were no answers. So you understand my absolute delight when Colby Sharp tweeted awhile back that Kirby had written a follow-up to Hattie Big Sky called Hattie Ever After.

I was lucky to read this book this fall when a group of friends mailed the ARC around the country so we could get our hands on it early. I reread Hattie Big Sky the week before the ARC arrived and, I have to say, I got nervous. I truly loved the first book so much, I was worried the second wouldn’t measure up. Boy was I wrong.

I’m afraid this won’t be much of a review because I don’t want to give anything away. I loved this book because of Hattie’s independence, the relationships between the characters, and the incredible research Kirby does to prepare for her books. You can vividly imagine what San Francisco was like in 1919 just by reading a scene. This is a perfect book in every sense of the imagination.

On Tuesday I am delighted to welcome Kirby Larson to this blog. She graciously agreed to answer some questions I had for her – and a few from some students too. I highly recommend that you pick up this amazing book – and the first if you haven’t read it yet. You will fall in love with Hattie, I promise.