Series: Dear America
Published by Scholastic on 1 March 2013
Genres: MG Historical Fiction
Newbery Honor author Susan Campbell Bartoletti brings the story of a young girl caught up in a web of murder, lies, and the Great Fire of Chicago to bold life.
In the autumn of 1871, fourteen-year-old Pringle Rose learns that her parents have been killed in a terrible carriage accident. After her uncle Edward and his awful wife, Adeline, move into the Pringle family's home--making life for her and her younger brother, Gideon, unbearable--Pringle runs away with Gideon to Chicago, seeking refuge from the tragedy, and hoping to start a new life. She becomes a nanny for the children of a labor activist, and quickly finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue and lies. Then, when a familiar figure from home arrives, Pringle begins to piece together the devastating mystery of what happened to her parents, and realizes just how deadly the truth might be. But soon, one of the greatest disasters this country has ever known--the Great Fire of Chicago--flares up, and Pringle is on the run for her life.
Good Morning Lovelies!
So I’m catching up on some much needed to share reviews. Today’s review is on a book I read this past spring for class. It definitely wasn’t a favorite of mine. Check out below for all my thoughts 😉
Ownership: Borrowed from Library
Genre: MC historical fiction; Dear America
Price: $12.99 (hardcover);
Place: Amazon, B & N, Book Depository, GoodReads, IndieBound
Down the Rabbit Hole, Chicago, Illinois 1871: The Diary of Pringle Rose by Susan Bartoletti follows Pringle as she and her brother abscond to Chicago. The story takes place over a week or so, but flashbacks draw out the story’s timeline. Pringle runs away from her aunt and uncle after she feels like they are threatening her brother’s way of life. Her mission is to meet up with her mother’s best friend who lives in Chicago and seek refuge and start over. She chronicles this decision and her journey to Chicago within her diary.
Like many of the Dear America stories, the storyline incorporates fictional characters during historical events or time periods. While an interesting and sometimes entertaining way to bring history to life, readers also need to be cautioned that these stories are fiction. Sometimes I feel like younger readers might think these diaries are real diaries from these events and places, so things end up getting tricky. Just be sure to explain or understand that this story is in fact fiction 🙂
Okay, on to the actual story! So while I used to love the Dear America books when I was younger, this story seemed to fall flat for me. Barotletti creates developed and complex characters in her story, but her writing seemed lacking. While this novel was written in diary format, multiple points throughout the novel contained flashbacks that weren’t always clearly defined as being so. The multiple jumping through time periods without clear distinction or transition made it hard for me to comprehend the time jump. Plus, it left me confused on how much time had actually passed. The journey to Chicago was at one point stated to take three days, but the book made it seem like a lot more time had passed on the train. Then the time in Chicago seemed almost nonexistent. This seemed to clash against the premise of the story which seemed to focus on Chicago as the setting and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 as the main event of the story. In reality, the event of the Chicago Fire was almost like cliff notes to the story, so I felt like I didn’t get to really experience that event.
Another downside to the story for me was Barotletti’s numerous references to Alice in Wonderland which caused me to pull out from the story because I’ve never read the story, so I did not understand all the references being made. I don’t think this would be a downside for those who have read Alice in Wonderland before, however.
One other problem I had with the novel was with the final reactions of some of the characters which seemed incongruous with how they were at first portrayed. This was a bit bit confusing, if not disappointing, since Bartoletti’s character development was so well done up until that point.
Finally, the epilogue tied up some of the loose ends, but not all of them which left me a bit disappointed. I wanted more of a resolution at the end instead of having to dwell on some of the unresolved plot points.
Criticisms aside, Bartoletti did do a good job of developing Pringle and the secondary characters. It was nice to see a positive representation of a child with down syndrome in the character Gideon. Not many books include characters with mental or physical disabilities. Showcasing Gideon as a well developed secondary character was a big positive to this story. I applaud Barotletti for creating and including well developed characters such as Gideon.
In the end, while this novel had some negative points, the overall story was entertaining. I read through it relatively fast. However, I probably won’t recommend it to anyone. It just didn’t vibe for me.
Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you’ve read this book and your thoughts on Pringle and Gideon. Did you ever read the Dear America books? Did you enjoy the diary writing style? Have a favorite part or quote? Let me know! 🙂
As always, Happy Reading!
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