cover image The Borning Room

The Borning Room

Paul Fleischman. HarperCollins, $14.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-06-023762-2

Borning rooms, common in many early American homes, were located off the kitchen and reserved for births, illnesses and deaths. Here the room serves as a kind of touchstone, a central symbol for the story of Georgina Lott. Fleischman's first-person narrative can best be described as a series of snapshots of a 19th-century life. He fast-forwards through history--from pre-Civil War days and the Underground Railroad through the First World War--as readers see Georgina at her birth, at eight, with her little brother's arrival (and a brief look at the injustices of slavery) and so on, through her own marriage, the birth of her first daughter and, finally, facing her own death. This workmanlike tale is frustratingly brief, flitting from one incident to the next with only scant looks at the historic underpinnings of each episode. Fleischman's prose, while fluid as ever, never catches fire the way it did in his recent Saturnalia . Ages 11-up. (Sept.)