cover image Taking Charge

Taking Charge

Sonia Levitin. Scholastic, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30149-4

Amanda, the plucky pioneer heroine of Levitin and Smith's Nine for California and Boom Town, learns that doing Mama's job--minding the house, chores and children--is more than a handful in this energetic picture book. When Mama is called away to visit her ailing mother, Amanda volunteers to take charge. Amanda is determined to handle everything on her own and repeatedly declines offers of help. But who would have predicted that just taking care of her brother Baby Nathan was a full-time job in itself? The snappy text packs enough realistic sentiment to strike a chord with any young reader who has been eager to demonstrate his or her independence, and Baby Nathan's scrapes (from swaddling a pig with a just-made quilt to locking himself in a bank vault) put an amusing spin on Amanda's labors. Levitin fills the story with history, exploring the elements of life in the 1800s: scrubbing laundry on a washboard, churning butter, sewing with the neighbors. In her loose-lined, action-packed watercolors, Smith's lanky-limbed characters skillfully embody the humor in the text. Her cozy details (furniture, dress, telegraph office, stage coach) provide an entertaining glimpse of the Old West. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)