cover image Calling Me Home

Calling Me Home

Patricia Hermes. HarperCollins Publishers, $15 (140pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97451-1

Among the spate of middle-grade fiction centering on the daughters of 19th-century American homesteaders, Hermes's (Mama, Let's Dance; You Shouldn't Have to Say Goodbye) graceful if predictable novel stands a cut above. At its heart is the question of what does--and what should--constitute ""home"" for Abbie. Her family has moved from a town where they lived in a proper house with a piano and where the children attended school. But out on the Nebraska prairie, no school yet exists and the family inhabits what Abbie describes as a ""gopher hole""--a sod house ""made out of the earth, with a ceiling that leaked and dropped dirt and dust into our dinner."" Though she loves the freedom that the prairie gives her, she misses the comforts of town life. But her longing for town pales next to her baby brother's death from cholera; Abbie, believing it took her too long to fetch the doctor, blames herself. All this is familiar territory, but Hermes takes a fresh path with a feminist angle (Abbie feels it unfair that her father is acquiring land chiefly to pass it on to his sons--women could not own land in the 1850s) and with other interesting historical details, mostly about various ruses adopted by land-hungry settlers--including women--in order to circumvent the homestead laws. A solid story, neatly told. Ages 8-12. (Dec.)