cover image In Care of Cassie Tucker

In Care of Cassie Tucker

Ivy Ruckman. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32514-1

For 11-year-old Cassie Tucker--and for the reader--life is eventful on the family farm in Nebraska in the waning months of the 19th century. In August, 1899, a telegram announces that her aunt and uncle have died of cholera and that cousin Evan, whom none of the Tuckers have met, is on his way from Montana. Ruckman (Night of the Twisters) earns the audience's trust with Cassie's mixed reactions--she is both eager and wary: ""How could I love someone who was stealing my room, even if he was a poor, homeless orphan?"" she laments. The girl's honest, fresh voice keeps this appealing period tale moving briskly, through both domestic dramas (Evan teaches her to swim, a privilege her parents had previously reserved for her brothers; Cassie's older brother, Ted, courts Mary, the neighbors' ""hired girl"") and life-threatening ordeals (Ted slips into a coma after being thrown by a wild mustang; Evan gets lost during a blizzard). Cassie emerges as heroine in these last-mentioned events: at the urging of a gypsy friend, she revives Ted by giving him sips of brandy, forbidden in her preacher father's house; and she fires a shotgun to guide a near-frozen Evan home through the blinding snow. Ruckman casually inserts informative historical nuggets into her story. Cassie alludes, for example, to Andrew Carnegie, the ""richest man alive,"" and to orphan trains (when one came through, she confides, she'd begged her father for a sister). Although readers are poised to witness a turn of the century different from Cassie's, they will readily identify with her timeless concerns. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)