Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Trouble with May Amelia, by Jennifer Holm (ages 9 - 12)

When I was a kid, I loved reading about girls who went against the grain and weren't "good little girls," wearing dresses and doing what everyone expected of them. I think that's one of the lasting appeals of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She had spunk and a sparkle in her eye. Jennifer Holm has created a wonderful character May Amelia with this same appeal. Living with a pack of brothers, May Amelia wants to do all the exciting, brave things her brothers do - swimming in the Nasel River, working with the animals, helping run the family farm. But living in the Washington state frontier wilderness in 1900 isn't easy - especially when her father declares that Girls Are Useless. This wonderful historical fiction will appeal to 4th and 5th graders who love characters with heart, courage and spunk
The Trouble with May AmeliaThe Trouble with May Amelia
by Jennifer L. Holm
illustrated by Adam Gustavson
NY: Atheneum, 2011
ages 9 - 12
available from Amazon and your local public library
The Jackson family lives in logging country in rural Washington State in 1900, in a community settled by many Finnish immigrants. It's a hard life, with rain, mud and work; but it's also a life full of family and community, traditions and adventure. This is a sequel to Holm's Newbery honor book Our Only May Amelia, but The Trouble with May Amelia can be read on its own since Holm introduces each character nicely.

May Amelia certainly has courage and guts, or Sisu as the Finns call it. As the only girl in a family with seven brothers, she must carry the weight of cooking and cleaning when her mother goes to help catch babies as the local midwife. While her father continually criticizes her as a useless girl, she thinks she may have won his respect when she helps her Finnish-speaking father by translating for a gentleman who asks them to invest in a new company establishing a local harbor for the logging business. But when the man turns out to be a fraud and the family loses everything, everyone blames May Amelia.

May Amelia's spirit and voice shines through on every page. I loved the first person narrative that Holm created - this reads aloud in my head just as if May Amelia is talking right to me. Holm takes you into really hard times for the family and despair for May Amelia, but the family's love and humor pulls through. This powerful, compelling novel will reach your heart and make you laugh.

Jennifer Holm is an incredibly talented author. She has won three Newbery Honor Awards for her historical fiction novels (Turtle in Paradise, Penny from Heaven and Our Only May Amelia), but kids at our school know her best as the author of the Babymouse series - a bright pink graphic novel series that girls and boys eat up with delight.

If you're waiting for The Trouble with May Amelia to reach your local library, definitely check out the original Our Only May Amelia - especially lovely on audio. Holms received a Newbery Honor Award for this in 2000. It was one of our family's favorite audiobooks from last winter.

The Trouble with May Amelia is being released April 5th, and is now available on Amazon and in your local bookstores. The review copy was kindly sent by Simon and Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. I agree that Jennifer Holm is a great author. These two books about May Amelia are sitting around waiting for me to read them!! Great review!

  2. Thanks, Kathy! I love these - hope you get a chance to enjoy them soon!