by Karen Hesse
This book is written at a 3rd grade level, and the narrator is 9-years-old, so I'm assuming that is the audience. However, the themes in the book are much too mature for 8 and 9-year-old children.
This story about an extremely poor "backwoods" family struggling to survive is touching, and in some ways inspiring for it's family loyalty and warmth. I enjoyed it for the most part, but was rather shocked when near the end of the book the 9-year-old narrator describes being required to unexpectedly deliver her mother's baby in an emergency situation. I admire the girl's courage, but not her description of seeing her mother's "private parts." I wouldn't want my 9-year-old daughter reading that. I think she would be traumatized. (She knows some basics, but we haven't had the full-fledged "talk" yet... that's coming this summer.) Call me old-fashioned. I am.
Poor grammar pervades this novel since the narrator and other characters are poorly educated. This can be confusing to a 3rd grader who would not understand that this is not "acceptable" or "normal." Overall, the book is simply too mature for it's intended audience. The subject matter would be more appropriate for junior high school, but the reading level is too low, and the main character would not be interesting to young teens. Unfortunately, that leaves this book in no-man's-land, which is unfortunate because it is a nice story.
Age recommendation: 9 and up ONLY if read aloud to the child by a parent and discussed thoroughly.