Finding Hattie

Sally Warner, Author HarperCollins Publishers $15.95 (227p) ISBN 978-0-06-028464-0
Warner demonstrates that she is equally at ease in the past as the present (How to Be a Real Person [In Just One Day], reviewed above) as she plumbs her great-grandmother's diary to create this winning historical novel set in the early 1880s. After the deaths of her great-aunt and beloved brother, 14-year-old Hattie goes to live with her patrician aunt and uncle and her kind yet headstrong cousin, Sophie, in New York City. Warner balances descriptions of the pleasures of elegant clothes and a full stomach with passages about Hattie's loneliness, grief and anxiety about not embarrassing her exacting relatives. Every dinner in her uncle's home is fraught with peril: ""It was all delicious, but erect in her chair and feeling like a scarecrow that had unexpectedly been plunked down in a ballroom, Hattie cringed, awaiting each night's humiliation."" Warner's depiction of the unfolding friendship between the girl cousins proves particularly strong (""Sophie had rushed from activity to activity trailing Hattie behind her like an awkward kite""). Hattie follows Sophie to Miss Bulkley's Seminary for Young Ladies, where Sophie's friends accept Hattie into their ""Quartette"" and stand firm against bully Minnie Bonesteel who exposes Hattie's ""charity case"" status. Warner seamlessly details Hattie's domestic and academic life while keeping her heroine's observations historically accurate. Despite her friendships, Hattie often feels isolatedDuntil she discovers a kindred spirit in Fannie Macintosh whom the other girls shun because Fannie hails from flashy new money (Fannie's retort: ""Money can't have an age. It's the same no matter how you make it or how long you've had it""). Even with its period setting, this atmospheric tale portrays the timeless teenage struggle to find one's own way. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
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