Sister

Ellen Howard, Author Atheneum Books $13.95 (148p) ISBN 978-0-689-31653-1
This prequel to Edith Herself focuses on the eldest child of the as-yet-unborn Edith's large Midwestern farm family in the 1880s. Twelve-year-old Alena's subjugation of her own identity in service to her siblings is reflected in the way they invariably address her as ``Sister.'' But Alena is not resentful; on the contrary, this likable character feels grateful that she can continue her schooling even though her overtaxed mother is expecting another child, and thrives on the encouragement of her teacher, Mr. Malcolm, ``who had come from another world, a sacred world called College.'' Then everything changes--Alena, heretofore ignorant of the facts of life, single-handedly helps her mother through a premature delivery. Alena's joy in the event vanishes when the newborn dies days later, her mother succumbs to deep depression and Alena, weathering Mr. Malcolm's disapproval, assumes full-time responsibility for the household. Except for the mother's tidy recovery, every facet of this absorbing novel seems lifelike--lyrical evocations of butterflies alighting on fences; period details; the hopeful resolution; and, especially, the descriptions of childbirth and other aspects of female sexuality. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
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