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Friday, May 11, 2012


On my kitchen wall hang dreams
When I first got the ARC for this book, last year, word was it would not be released until September 2012, and I felt unjustly thwarted and hindered—very huffy indeed.. Everyone loved Ellen Airgood’s 2011 novel, South of Superior, and I wanted her new book for my summer bookshop season! So now, good news: I have my first copies on back order, and they should arrive before the end of this month. Yes! By Memorial Day, Prairie Evers should be in Northport.

This one is a middle-grade novel, especially appropriate for 8- to 12-year-olds, but I know many adults will enjoy it as much as I do. Yes, I am ten years old at heart. What of it? I’m presently reading Prairie Evers for the second time. More and more adults lately are reading YA novels in general, it seems. But I digress....

Don't you love this book cover?
Airgood’s new young character has always been home-schooled by a beloved grandmother, but when the family moves north to the place where her mother grew up, Grammy is homesick and decides to return to North Carolina. This is the girl’s first trial in her new life. Then they are the gossipers in the town diner, who think her father is nothing but a poor “dirt-poor hillbilly.” And these busy-bodies can’t even get her name right. It’s Prairie, not Meadow! Prairie’s parents plan is to make their living from the old farm, plus their crafts—quilts and birdhouses--and even Prairie can see that this will “take a lot of doing.” So her idea to cure her own homesickness and lonesomeness also involves making money. She decides she will raise chickens and sell eggs,

Then her parents throw her another curve ball, telling her she will be going to regular school in New Paltz. Can anything be worse than this? There is nothing about fifth grade that Prairie likes. Not the school bus, certainly, or the crowd of children, and especially not having to sit in a desk all day long.

Prairie Evers, like South of Superior, introduces ordinary people struggling to make ends meet and find their places in a community. Will life ever become “easy” for Prairie Evers? (Is “easy” a realistic or desirable life goal?) The course of this story, like real life, presents surprises and challenges for the main character, and the last pages, also like life, leave a few questions about Prairie’s future, rather than tying everything up in one big, tidy bow, and I like it all the better for that. The shape and trajectory are clear, and the conclusions satisfying.

Crying don’t get the oil changed,” Prairie’s Grammy always said. You might say that Prairie’s year in fifth grade, with all its ups and downs, is one in which she learns a lot about changing the oil. And since it’s a lesson most of us have to relearn many times in the course of our lives, we chart her progress with sympathy and hope.

A beautiful breed
Yes, I love the chickens in the story, too. But you knew that, didn't you?


Kathy said...

Dear 10-year-old at heart, This is indeed a lovely review. The chickens have me intrigued!

Dawn said...

I remember being 10. It was hard. I love YA books...there are quite a few that anyone of any age would enjoy. After our trip to NM last year I read "The Green Glass Sea" by Ellen Klages which is a historical YA novel about a 11 year old living at Los Alamos when they were developing the bomb. It was an excellent read. I'm sure Airgood's new novel will be excellent as well.

P. J. Grath said...

As adults we often think that children's lives are easy--or that we can make them easy by protecting them from worry. Childhood fears and worries never completely go away. With experience, we learn that we can keep moving forward, that we must keep moving forward and getting that oil changed, even when we are weary and sick at heart. There are also, as in Prairie's life, compensations and downright joys along the way, many of them unexpected. So it goes. Good stories are ageless.

Gerry said...

I'm not a big fan of YA novels--but I wouldn't miss this one. I have confidence that anything Ellen writes will be rewarding to read. And I'm really glad you'll have books by Memorial Day!

P. J. Grath said...

This probably doesn't count as YA, in that the target audience is between 8 and 12. There are no vampires in it, either. Just ordinary human beings and chickens. I think you'll like it.

P. J. Grath said...

Now have word that author Ellen Airgood will be making a very quick visit to Traverse City the end of this week and will be at Horizon Books for a signing from 5 to 7. I hope to get there myself.