- ISBN-13: 9780385743266
- ISBN-10: 0385743262
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publish Date: June 2013
- Page Count: 216
- Reading Level: Ages 9-12
- Dimensions: 8.49 x 5.74 x 0.86 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.73 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-04-22
- Reviewer: Staff
Set in 1932 in small-town Alabama, Golden’s folksy debut details the struggles and injustices facing 11-year-old Lizzie Hawkins after her father loses his job and leaves town. Stuck with an overdue mortgage and a mother paralyzed by depression, Lizzie believes she just has to hold it together until her father returns, as she is sure he will. Her best friend Ben is supportive but in a similar situation, and he grows tired of Lizzie’s single-minded focus on her own problems. Between the pressures of working, keeping up her grades, staying one step ahead of her nemesis at school, and hiding the truth about her home life (Lizzie fears her mother will be sent to an institution and she herself to an orphanage), Lizzie is too busy to see that she may need to reach out for help. The novel’s Southern dialect and Depression-era setting are solidly evoked—debut author Golden pulled from her own family’s history to create Lizzie’s story. If the characters sometimes come across as one-note, Lizzie’s innate resilience and determination are memorable and inspiring. Ages 9–12. (June)
An indomitable young girl during the Depression
In 1932, the same year Lizzie Hawkins turns 12, the Great Depression has hunkered down in Bittersweet, Alabama. No longer able to provide for his family or cover the mounting mortgage payments, Lizzie’s father disappeared and has yet to return, while her mother has become depressed, withdrawn and even mute. In Laura Golden’s tender debut novel, inspired by her grandparents’ experiences during the same time period, it’s up to Lizzie to run the family home, take care of her mother and avoid suspicion—or end up in an orphanage.
Golden shows the blessings of community and the burdens of gossip in a small town as the girl manages at first to keep her family secrets private. The ruse becomes difficult when best friend Ben, who also recently lost his father, makes Lizzie see that she’s not the only one facing tragedy. And jealous Erin, a bully reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Nellie Oleson, has her heart set on ruining Lizzie. Ever determined, Lizzie learns not only to accept life’s lemons, but also make lemonade with them—something her father espoused but never practiced.
From her desire to catch the local legendary one-eyed catfish to her love of Goo Goo Clusters, Lizzie’s stubborn yet resourceful spirit shines through in Golden’s splendid Southern storytelling. Perhaps guided by her mother’s favorite proverbs, which also serve as chapter headings, the girl comes up with an ingenious plan that may keep what’s left of her family together and help her fellow down-and-out townsfolk in the process. Readers will adore Lizzie’s tale, which certainly lives up to her town’s name.