Reviews for Our Only May Amelia


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 September 1999
Gr. 4^-6. May Amelia, age 12, lives with her stern Finnish father, pregnant mother, and seven brothers in the state of Washington in the late 1800s. She records the details of her life in a diary using the present tense and a folksy speech pattern: "I go about fixing dinner real quiet-like so they can talk and tell secrets." Aside from quarrels with her adoptive brother Kaarlo, May lives a relatively bucolic life until the arrival of her shrewish grandmother, who finds fault with everything May says and does. The author bases her story on her aunt's real diary, so the everyday details of life among Finnish immigrants add a nice specificity to the background, and May is appealingly vivacious. However, the lack of quotation marks, the overuse of certain expressions (among them, "indeed"), the length, and sometimes slow pacing may make this a secondary purchase. ((Reviewed September 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 June #1
May Amelia, the feisty lovable heroine of Holm's fetching novel, ``ain't no proper young lady.'' A 12-year-old girl with an adventurous spirit and ``a nose for trouble,'' May Amelia is the youngest of eight children and the only girl. Life in the rough world of logging camps and farming in the wilderness of the state of Washington in 1899 is not easy, and May Amelia and her brothers have to work hard to keep farm and family going. May Amelia dreams of being a sailor and traveling to China, but is hampered by everyone, especially her strict Finnish-born father, who is always yelling at her for ``doing what the boys are doing.'' The book chronicles May Amelia's adventures with her brothers, a brush with a wild bear, conflicts with her mean- tempered grandmother, and the long-awaited birth of a baby sister who later dies in her sleep. The story, which is episodic and somewhat shapeless, careens along before stopping without much resolution. Still, the robust characterizations captivate, the lilting dialogue twangs, and the sharply individual first-person narrative gives the material authority and polish. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 March #2
"An unforgettable heroine intelligently narrates Holm's debut novel set in 1899 Washington State," said PW in its Best Books of 1999 citation. Ages 9-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 June #2
An unforgettable heroine narrates Holm's extraordinary debut novel set in Washington State in 1899. Twelve-year-old tomboy May Amelia Jackson, the youngest of seven children and the only girl in a Finnish immigrant family, lives in the wilderness along the Nasel River: "I have so many brothers, more than any girl should have. My secret birthday wish is to get a sister." Holm's uncanny ability to give each of the siblings and a wide range of adults a distinctive character while maintaining May Amelia's spunky narrative voice, gives the novel its immediacy and potency. Through May Amelia's travels, readers witness the diverse ways of life in the expanding West: peaceful relations with the Chinook Indians, the plight of a widow barmaid, the taboos around her brother's interest in an Irish girl, the dangers posed by the neighboring logging camp, her aunt's life in the nearby boomtown of Astoria, Ore., as well as the rhythms of the seasons. The sometimes gruesome realities of the Jacksons' lives are tempered by May's strength of character and her bond to her favorite brother, Wilbert. Readers will fall in love with May Amelia's spirited nature; when she saves her brothers from a cougar, she tells them, "I reckon it's a Darn Good Thing I'm not a Proper Young Lady or you'd be a cougar's supper right about now." This novel is not to be missed. Ages 9-up. (June) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1999 June
Gr 5-7On the Nasel River, Washington state, in 1899, 12-year-old May Amelia Jackson feels overwhelmed with her seemingly unlimited supply of brothers and manages to get herself in trouble with animal traps, bears, floods, and more. Everyone, especially her stern father, asks her why she is such a no-account girl and admonishes her to act like a Proper Young Lady. Her fondest wish comes true with the birth of a little sister who is put in her care while her mother recuperates. When the baby dies, May Amelias vituperative Finnish grandmother publicly blames her at the funeral. The girl gives in to grief and rage, swearing that she will never again live with her family. A stay with a kindly aunt and uncle in a bustling city provides more adventure, a bit of polish, and a best girl friend. But when news arrives that Grandmother Patience has passed away, May Amelia must make an important decision. Her first-person narrative, in an almost stream-of-consciousness style, has plenty of hilarity to lighten the pathos inevitably found in the harsh reality of pioneer life. Holm also pays much attention to the limited roles allowed women of this era, describing Indian healers, tavern keepers, teachers, and even an aunt who is supported by an affluent gentleman. An engaging family story, portions of which will make dramatic read-alouds.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY Copyright 1999 School Library Journal Reviews

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