18 November 2009

Short Review: Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm was recommended to me by my niece when she was in seventh grade. This book shows how wonderful middle reader/young adult historical fiction can be.

Many young girls have read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and through those books developed a romantic vision of pioneer life. In contrast, Holm presents a tougher picture and sets her story a little later in Washington State.

In 1899, May Amelia is the only girl in her small settlement on the banks of the Nasel River. The twelve-year-old has seven older brothers and prides herself on being able to fish and run and work as well as any boy. Nevertheless, now that her mother is pregnant, May Amelia wishes for a sister.

When her grandmother comes to help out the family, May Amelia's world is turned upside down. In desperation and grief, the girl makes a startling and brave choice to change her life.

The novel's authenticity stems from the real-life diaries of one of Holm's great-aunts. The story is moving and emotionally deep. May Amelia and her bothers are so well developed that it is easy to forget that the book is mostly fiction. The novel takes a frank and matter-of-fact look at some of the true hardships of pioneer life: contact with Indians, the roughness of the logging camps, the reality of kept women, early death, and unhappiness.

It is no surprise that Our Only May Amelia was the recipient of several awards and honors: Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000; National Council for Social Sciences and Children's Book Council; 2000 Newbery Honor Book; and 2000 Notable Children's Books (ALA). I recommend this for readers of all ages who like a strong female character, who enjoy historical fiction, and who would like to learn more about pioneer life in the Pacific Northwest.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition read by Emmy Rossum. Rossum did a great job characterizing the young May Amelia and conveying a wide range of emotions.

The cover is from the original 1999 HarperCollins edition. (Source: Borrowed; see review policy)

Our Own May Amelia at Powell's
Our Own May Amelia at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's O.


Kristen 11/18/09, 7:39 AM  

I had heard of this before but not read it. Since I don't read a whole lot of children's literature, I must have heard all the accolades. Wonder if my daughter would be interested in it?

Sandy Nawrot 11/18/09, 8:27 AM  

I'm quite sure I would like this book, as I was a huge fan of the Little House books as a kid (I'm fixing to read Little House in the Big Woods for Shelf Discovery very soon). I'll see if I can get this from my library and my daughter and I can read it together.

Laurel-Rain Snow 11/18/09, 10:14 AM  

Oh, this sounds so tempting! I really need to read more "historic" fiction.

BTW, I think I've said this before, but your blog header is fabulous!

My O book is here:


Missy B. 11/18/09, 10:16 AM  

I would love this book! I am definitely going to check it out. The Little House books were my favorite growing up....this one sounds just as wonderful.....

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 11/18/09, 10:33 AM  

Ooh. I would love to read this one. I read Laura Ingalls Wilder's diary On The Way Home about when she moved with her husband to find a new farm, and it was definitely grittier. I would love to read a more accurate version of the pioneer experience.

S. Krishna 11/18/09, 10:41 AM  

I was a huge fan of the Little House books when I was a kid, but I haven't been as interested in this era in American history as an adult. Maybe I'll give this a try.

Anonymous,  11/18/09, 10:54 AM  

Sounds like one to keep in mind. Thanks.

Margot 11/18/09, 10:56 AM  

I've just written this one down on my wish list. I love reading stories set in this time period and pioneering life. You made the book sound attractive. Tell your niece thanks too.

Sherrie 11/18/09, 11:49 AM  

Hi Beth,
This does sound like a great book. I've put it on my TBR list. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!

Just Books

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 11/18/09, 1:23 PM  

I'm another who read (and re-read!) the LITTLE HOUSE books. This would be a good book for me and my older daughter; I'm a history buff, and she get taken along for the ride!

Nise' 11/18/09, 2:11 PM  

I would appreciate reading this YA book now than if I read it when I was younger.

Anonymous,  11/18/09, 2:23 PM  

Might have to put this on my list!

Thanks for playing!

bermudaonion 11/18/09, 2:25 PM  

I love that your niece recommended this great book to you. I've gotten quite a few good recommendations from Vance through the years.

me again 11/18/09, 5:57 PM  

I don't know this one; thanks for the recommendation!
Here's my O book if you want to take a peek

Julie P. 11/18/09, 6:54 PM  

I'm not familiar with this one at all. I'll have to take a look!

Veens 11/20/09, 6:21 AM  

I have never read anything by this author. I definitely will look out for this one here!

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