cover image Our Only May Amelia

Our Only May Amelia

Jennifer L. Holm. HarperCollins Publishers, $18.99 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027822-9

An unforgettable heroine narrates Holm's extraordinary debut novel set in Washington State in 1899. Twelve-year-old tomboy May Amelia Jackson, the youngest of seven children and the only girl in a Finnish immigrant family, lives in the wilderness along the Nasel River: ""I have so many brothers, more than any girl should have. My secret birthday wish is to get a sister."" Holm's uncanny ability to give each of the siblings--and a wide range of adults--a distinctive character while maintaining May Amelia's spunky narrative voice, gives the novel its immediacy and potency. Through May Amelia's travels, readers witness the diverse ways of life in the expanding West: peaceful relations with the Chinook Indians, the plight of a widow barmaid, the taboos around her brother's interest in an Irish girl, the dangers posed by the neighboring logging camp, her aunt's life in the nearby boomtown of Astoria, Ore., as well as the rhythms of the seasons. The sometimes gruesome realities of the Jacksons' lives are tempered by May's strength of character and her bond to her favorite brother, Wilbert. Readers will fall in love with May Amelia's spirited nature; when she saves her brothers from a cougar, she tells them, ""I reckon it's a Darn Good Thing I'm not a Proper Young Lady or you'd be a cougar's supper right about now."" This novel is not to be missed. Ages 9-up. (June)