Shank, Marilyn. Child of the Mountains.
10 April 2012, Delacorte
Nominated for the Cybils by Amanda
Lydia's family doesn't have very much money in1950s Appalachia, but they make do. Her grandfather has passed away, as has her abusive father, but her grandmother is a strong presence in helping to make ends meet and help her father care for her young brother, BJ, who has cycstic fibrosis. In an effort to help her brother, Lydia's mother has signed papers to put him in a special hospital, but when it is clear that he doesn't have much time left, the family takes him out of the hospital, and he dies at home. This leads to the mother's arrest, and since the grandmother has also died, Lydia goes to live with an aunt and uncle. The snooty girls in her school give her trouble, but she is determined to get her mother out of jail. With the help of an understand teacher and his fiance, she navigated the difficult legal system and also finds out secrets about her own past.
Strengths: There are not many books set in Appalachia, and this one deftly describes the difficulties of life in this area at this time. Cystic Fibrosis also doesn't get much coverage in fiction. Good cover, intriguing plot.
Weaknesses: It's a personal thing, but I can't stand to read things written in any dialect. Interesting how the teacher tells Lydia that while her dialect is fine, she needs to learn standard English as well!
Mobley, Jeannie. Katerina's Wish
28 August 2012, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Nominated for the Cybils by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Life in a Colorado mining town in the early 1900s is rough for Katerina's Bohemian immigrant family. They never seem to be able to save enough money to buy a farm, and everyone is unhappy about how hard life is. Katerina makes a wish for a farm, but it is her hard work that brings the family closer to making this happen. She starts a garden, raises chickens, and makes a deal with a merchant in a nearby town to undercut the company store and turn a profit. When an accident in the mine affects many families, Katerina's plans are set back, but by working even harder, she tries to make life easier for her family.
Strengths: This is the sort of book I loved as a child-- like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it gives exquisite detail about how hard life was, and how every penny had to be pinched. I liked Katerina's intelligence and work ethic, and the setting was a little more unusual than the normal immigrant or western expansion novel. The practical romance was interesting, even if it might seem a little odd to modern girls that a 13 year old was thinking about getting married!
Weakness: I couldn't quite buy that Katerina was able to undercut the company store-- from what I've read, the companies could be ruthless about keeping the workers' buying power to a minimum. I'm tempted to buy this, but it will be a really hard sell.