Monday, August 29, 2011
It's 1906 and Mattie Gokey is the oldest daughter in a family of four other girls. Their mother has died recently leaving them all with fresh sadness. Mattie's been the one in charge of chores, taking care of her siblings while her father runs the farm. Mattie loves words, making her standout as a student when she is able to attend, and she looks up a new word in the dictionary every day. She has two best friends; Weaver, an African American young man who is set on going to Columbia to be a lawyer, and Millie, who left school last year to get married and gives birth to twins.
Mattie has dreams to attend Barnard College and received a scholarship to attend-she just needs money to ride the train, a place to stay and books. When the family mule dies her father needs help financially and agrees to let Mattie work at one of the local hotels. A whole new world opens up to Mattie as she discovers the wealthy lives of the people staying at the hotel and the mystery of a young lady who hands her a stack of letters.
I just can't tell you any more. You should read all about the mystery yourself. This book has much to say about the beginning of the women's movement and what it was like for women, like Mattie's teacher, Miss Wilcox, who chose a life of their own. We take it for granted now; like it's always been that way, even though it's only about three generations ago that things began to change. This book blends a love of words with mysteries about her teacher, the young woman at the hotel as well as Mattie's own dilemma as she sorts out what her own path will be.
Mattie is a wonderful heroine who doesn't disappoint us in her choices and uses what she comes to understand from her work at the hotel, through her friend, Millie, and her own mother's decisions as well as her relationship with Royal Loomis and everything he has to offer. This one deserves to be pulled out of the stacks and read.
Awarded in 2004 the ALA's Michael L. Printz's Award for Excellence Honor Book-the list. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson took the prize and understandably so.
Jennifer Donnelly's website
Best Books I Have Not Read
Emily at Las Risas