|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?