Reviews for Ballad of Lucy Whipple


Horn Book Guide Reviews 1997
Set in California during the Gold Rush years, Cushman's third novel retains her theme of a young feminist searching for a place to call home. Twelve-year-old Lucy tells her story as the only member of her family distraught about having to move to California from Massachusetts. Her language energizes and humanizes this story of the women and children who came not to strike it rich but to tame the land for their home. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1996 #5
Exchanging her medieval landscape for the sprawling California panorama of the Gold Rush years, Cushman in her third novel holds to her theme of a young feminist searching for a place to call home. Twelve-year-old California Morning Whipple, self-named a respectable, staid Lucy, tells her story as the only member of her family unsettled about having to move to California from her safe coziness in civilized Massachusetts. She believes her "heart's desire" is to return to her New England home. No matter that we know from the beginning that California Whipple will likely warm to the western climate to which she has been dragged by her adventurous, recently widowed mother - a mother spirited enough to name her other children Butte, Sierra, and Prairie. Self-absorbed Lucy does not comprehend that her expansive imagination, fed by the books she treasures, matches perfectly the spacious landscape she claims to abhor. In forlorn, histrionic letters to her grandparents that punctuate the text, Lucy vents her miserableness and the injustice of her uprooted position. Sounding like the self-dramatizing Anne of Green Gables, she concludes one early missive, "I am bodaciously sorrow-burdened and wretched!" It is her language (Western slang creeps into her vocabulary as she surprises herself with her danged this and dag diggety that) that energizes and humanizes this story of the footnote people of those extravagant Gold Rush years - the women and children who came not to strike it rich but to tame the land for their home. What we get is balladic indeed, not just "the extraordinary doin's of ordinary folk" but equally the ordinary doings of extraordinary folk. susan p. bloom Copyright 1998 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1996 June
~ The recent Newbery medalist plunks down two more strong-minded women, this time in an 1849 mining camp--a milieu far removed from the Middle Ages of her first novels, but not all that different when it comes to living standards. Arvella Whipple and her three children, Sierra, Butte, and 11-year-old California Morning, make a fresh start in Lucky Diggins, a town of mud, tents, and rough-hewn residents. It's a far cry from Massachusetts; as her mother determinedly settles in, California rebelliously changes her name to Lucy and starts saving every penny for the trip back east. Ever willing to lose herself in a book when she should be doing errands, Lucy is an irresistible teenager; her lively narration and stubborn, slightly naive self-confidence (as well as a taste for colorful invective: ``Gol durn, rip-snortin' rumhole and cussed, dad-blamed, dag diggety, thundering pisspot,'' she storms) recall the narrator of Catherine, Called Birdy (1994), without seeming as anachronistic. Other characters are drawn with a broader brush, a shambling platoon of unwashed miners with hearts (and in one case, teeth) of gold. Arvella eventually moves on, but Lucy has not only lost her desire to leave California, but found a vocation as well: town librarian. With a story that is less a period piece than a timeless and richly comic coming-of-age story, Cushman remains on a roll. (Fiction. 10- 13) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1996 July #2
In a voice so heartbreakingly bitter that readers can taste her homesickness, California Morning Whipple describes her family's six-year stay in a small mining town during the Gold Rush. Her mother, a restless widow with an acid tongue, has uprooted her children from their home in Massachusetts to make a new life in Lucky Diggins. California rebels by renaming herself Lucy and by hoarding the gold dust and money she earns baking dried apple and vinegar pies, saving up for a journey home. Over years of toil and hardship, Lucy realizes, somewhat predictably, that home is wherever she makes one. As in her previous books, Newbery Award winner Cushman (The Midwife's Apprentice) proves herself a master at establishing atmosphere. Here she also renders serious social issues through sharply etched portraits: a runaway slave who has no name of his own, a preacher with a congregation of one, a raggedy child whose arms are covered in bruises. The writing reflects her expert craftsmanship; for example, Lucy's brother Butte, dead for lack of a doctor, is eulogized thus: "He was eleven years old, could do his sums, and knew fifty words for liquor." A coming-of-age story rich with historical flavor. Ages 10-14. (Aug.) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1996 August
Gr 5-8 Following the death of Lucy's father, her mother moves her family from Massachusetts to the gold fields of California. Their home is now the rough-and-tumble gold-mining town of Lucky Diggins. Lucy feels distinctly out of place and longs for her grandparents and home. She tells of traveling west and settling down in this lonesome place, occasionally relating incidents through letters to her grandparents. She is a dreamy, bookish girl, not interested in the harsh life of the gold camps and California wilderness. Still, she makes unusual friends and has some adventures. Her brother, Butte, 11, dies; her mother works hard in a boarding house for miners and falls in love with a traveling evangelist. Lucy matures considerably over the course of the book, in the end choosing to remain in California rather than return to Massachusetts or follow her sisters, mother, and her mother's new husband to the Sandwich Islands. Cushman's heroine is a delightful character, and the historical setting is authentically portrayed. Lucy's story, as the author points out in her end notes, is the story of many pioneer women who exhibited great strength and courage as they helped to settle the West. The book is full of small details that children will love. Butte, for example, collects almost 50 words for liquor; listing them takes up half of a page. Young readers will enjoy this story, and it will make a great tie-in to American history lessons. Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1997 September
Lucy is no stranger to heartache yet she recounts her New England family's move to a California gold rush town with verve and wit. A rich historical novel. (Aug. 1996) Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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