Mobley, Jeannie. Searching for Silverheels
September 2nd 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Nominated for the Cybils by Audrey Vernick
Pearl is a big help to her mother in running the family diner in the early 1900s Colorado town of Como. Her father is off working, and things are changing. Her best friend Imogene is obsessed with finding romance, and Pearl has her own crushes, but she also has to deal with local eccentric, Josie, an older woman who passes out leaflets championing women's suffrage. When attractive tourist Frank comes to town, Pearl tells the local legend of Silverheels, a dance hall girl who supposedly nursed miners during a smallpox epidemic in the 1860s, but Josie ruins the story by insisting that Silverheels was opportunistic, and if she was so loved, why does no one remember her real name? Pearl and Frank start to investigate the mystery, and Josie chimes in with her own version. World War I is just beginning, so the town starts to see young soldiers passing through, and German families are given a hard time. Will Pearl be able to uncover the real story about Silverheels? And what was Josie's part in it?
Strengths: WWI home front stories are rare, and I'm surprised we aren't seeing more with the 100th anniversary upon us. This nicely blends local history with several national issues of the time, bringing in details such as the treatment of Germans, war bonds, and women's issues. Because I've read a lot of Lenora Mattingly Weber, the Colorado history was fun. The Beany books mention a lot of it.
Weaknesses: Could have used some editing. At 280 pages, it's a bit long, and historical novels are such a hard sell to my students. There could have been a lot of the variations of Silverheels story that were trimmed. I think the cover is great, but don't know how students will view it.