Monday, May 13, 2013
Book Review: Dear America: The Diary of Minnie Bonner: A City Tossed and Broken (San Francisco, California 1906), by Judy Blundell (Scholastic, 2013)
Dear America is a go-to for historical fiction for young people, and the series keeps expanding with more titles by award-winning authors. One of the newest entries is by Judy Blundell, author of award-winning YA novel What I Saw and How I Lied, among others. In this novel, she presents the diary of a 14-year old Philadelphia girl, Minnie Bonner, the daughter of a French tavern owner who has deserted his wife and child. His wife sends her only daughter Minnie into service as a lady's maid for the young daughter of a rich family, the Sumps, who are moving to the great city of San Francisco.
As the reader can guess by the title, they arrive to a luxurious life in San Francisco just days before the earthquake strikes. Without giving away too much of the story, let's just say that in the immediate chaos after the great shock, Minnie finds herself confused for the Sumps' daughter, a great heiress, and confronted by moral dilemmas she never contemplated. As the disaster spreads into a firestorm that threatens the destroy the entire city of San Francisco, Minnie must decide who she is, who she wants to be, and what her destiny will be.
This is a real page turner for middle-grade readers. In the addition to the obvious excitement of the earthquake and its aftermath, Blundell adds a story of con men, political graft, and good and evil, personified by corrupt politicians and courageous firemen, among others. Although there is a female heroine, and this series is predominantly marketed to female readers, this novel, with its great sense of adventure, could easily appeal to boys as well. Highly recommended!