Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: The Year We Were Famous

By: Carole Estby Dagg
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt CHildren's Book
Released on: April 4th, 2011
Ages: 12 & up
Source: ARC from publisher to review
5 stars- An Exciting Adventure

With their family home facing foreclosure, seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, need to raise a lot of money fast—no easy feat for two women in 1896. Helga wants to tackle the problem with her usual loud and flashy style, while Clara favors a less showy approach. Together they come up with a plan to walk the 4,600 miles from Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City—and if they can do it in only seven months, a publisher has agreed to give them $10,000. Based on the true story of the author’s great-aunt and great-grandmother, this is a fast-paced historical adventure that sets the drama of Around the World in Eighty Days against an American backdrop during the time of the suffragist movement, the 1896 presidential campaign, and the changing perception of “a woman’s place” in society.

I absolutely loved this incredible journey. Inspired by true events, The Year We Were Famous is a story that is full of hope, courage, and never giving up. Following the journey of the mother-daughter team of Helga and Clara, who in hopes of saving their farm and making money from their story, walked from Mica Creek, WA clear across the country to New York City, New York.

During the story's era of 1896, these two courageous women were armed with very little as they set out on a trek that was either admired or frowned upon, because they were women traveling alone. Not to mention the fact Helga left behind a husband and seven younger children. Together Helga and Clara battled getting lost, down pours, blizzards, little food, worn out shoes and so much more. Their adventures of joy, heartache, sorrow, discourage, courage and struggles were captured with letters home, journals they wrote to document their trip and letters they wrote to major news papers along the way.

Being a relative Helga, I loved that the author Carole Estby Dagg was able to include some real life notes about Helga, Clara, their trip and family, at the end of this fabulous fictionalized story. This is fantastic debut novel! I love how realistic this story felt. I enjoyed the encounters the women had with the local Native Americans in various parts of the West, the different descriptions of the towns/settlements they journey through, and I loved getting to know these two women. They had to endure so much and I really admire the inner strength both women had. Though they were at times at odds with each other and their story doesn't end on the note they had hoped, it's such a fascinating story to read. The setting, the dialogue and the whole feel of the book felt like I was reading a journal from 1896. I highly recommend picking this book up!

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~