Monday, June 06, 2022

MMGM- The Peach Rebellion, Forgotten Founders

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Van Draanen, Wendelin. The Peach Rebellion 
May 17th 2022 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

World War II is over, but things are still difficult for some people. This includes Ginny Rose, whose family was displaced by the Dust Bowl. They ended up in California after the deaths of her two young brothers from dystentery. For a while, they worked at Peggy's family peach farm, and the two girls became good friends. After time away, finding work in other places, Ginny Rose and her family, which now includes three younger sisters, are back. Their father has a job, they have a modest place to live, and Ginny Rose is earning good money for the summer at the local cannery. Peggy is glad to see her friend back, even if her mother is not. Peggy works long hours at the family farm, and is not happy when her older sister, who left home to get married and is now pregnant with her second child, tells her that their brother will inherit all of the property just because he is male. Peggy is interested in a boy who is very popular and whose father runs the local car dealership, and this sometimes puts her at odds with her friend Lisette. Lisette's father is a banker, and is moving the family into a "better" neighborhood, to a house that the bank has repossessed. Lisetter is very judgemental and cares deeply about appearances, but does care for Peggy, and gives her many of her old clothes. Peggy is grateful for these, and in turn gives some of her old dresses to Ginny, who is just grateful to her more than two outfits so that she doesn't have to do as much laundry after returning from her job covered in peach juice. Ginny Rose's mother suffers from depression tied to the deaths of the young boys years previously, and Ginny Rose comes up with a plan-- if she can retrieve the remains from the ditch where the boys were unceremoniously buried, and get them a plot in the local church cemetery, perhaps her mother's moods would improve. When Peggy hears about this plan, she reaches out to the minister's wife with a plan to ask the congregation for money, and soon even Lisette is drawn into the plan. Add in some romances, plans for the future, and family tensions, and Peggy and Ginny Rose's summer before returning to high school becomes a complicated one indeed. 
Strengths: In her first historical novel, Van Draanen has certainly done her research into post WWII America, and there are lots of good details about the late 1940s. The fashions (that feed sack dress with the kittens holding umbrellas!), the cars, the roller skating, and the societal expections for the girls, based on their socioeconomic status, all are interesting. There were so many family farms in the mid twentieth century, and so little coverage about what life was like for those young people. California was an especially interesting place during this time period, and seeing how "Okies" were treated even years after the Great Depression was fascinating. 
Weaknesses: There's a bit of modern sensibility layered on top of the realities of life in the 1940s, but younger readers won't notice this. I had trouble believing that Ginny Rose's mother was so despondent over the death of her sons. Women during the Great Depression and WWII were no strangers to loss, and would have had no choice but to forget and go on. My other niggle is that feed sack dresses were not stiff and scratchy, especially when they were well worn, but there is an entire PhD dissertation on feed sacks that could be had!
What I really think: Given the age of the characters and the length of the book (416 pages), this is most likely a Young Adult novel, but it reads more like YA from the 1980s (It reminded me vaguely of Lowry's Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye or Voigt's Tillerman saga, for no particularly good reason) or a current middle grade book. Since I have three copies of this author's 2011 The Running Dream, which is still very popular with my students, I will definitely be purchasing a copy. 

Lowe, Mifflin and Luong, William (illus.). 
Forgotten Founders: Black Patriots, Women Soldiers, and Other Heroes Who Shaped the America's Founding 
Bushel & Peck Books (June 7, 2022)
E ARC provided by the publisher

It can be very difficult to find history about marginalized people, especially if one goes back to the 1700s and the founding of the US. Sure, we might have heard about Crispus Attucks or Betsy Ross, but even during the Bicentennial, the focus was always on white male figures. It's good to see some fresh perspectives, and Forgotten Founders is a great collective biography focusing on women and Blacks who contributed to this time period. 

This starts with a brief but complete overview of events leading up to the Revolutionary war, and well as a timeline on slavery in America, both of which are extremely helpful. There are then very beautifully illustrated two page spreads on each of the figures covered, with a short explanation of the person's life and contributions to the founding of the US. There are quotes and sidebars as well. In between people, there are occasionally pages that talk about uniforms, Native Americans, and foreign aid. At the end, there is a short list of other women who were documented to have helped. 

While British readers would feel differently, I really enjoyed the celebratory tone of this book. There are a growing numbers of books that highlight marginalized peoples, but many of them concentrate on the wrongs done to these groups, like Sabin's The Founders Unmasked . I've never been an enthusiastic, flag waving patriot, and know that there are many problematic things about the US. Still, for the average 4th grader just starting to learn about US history, it's not a bad thing to showcase people who fought for a cause they believed was right, and to give them credit for helping to establish our country. Perhaps this just made me nostalgic for the Bicentennial; I was 11 in 1976 and so loved the huge number of stories in children's magazines, textbooks, and fiction about the Revolutionary war. This is a great companion to Avi's new novel, Loyalty

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  1. Sound like two interesting books, and especially for kids in the US. Thanks for the review!

  2. Don't know if I can leave a remark on your post. Didn't take another comment. The Peach Rebellion is a really great insight into life during WWII. This sounds like one I should check out. Forgotten Founders sounds like an excellent read too -- all children need to know this history.

  3. These both sound good, but The Peach Rebellion is more up my alley. I really love historic fiction. I'll put that on my list.Thanks for the reviews.