cover image Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer

Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer

Amy Ehrlich, illus. by Wendell Minor. S&S/Wiseman, $16.99 (72p) ISBN 978-0-689-86573-2

In this concise biography of Willa Cather (1873–1947), Ehrlich (With a Mighty Hand) focuses on the profound impact the author’s youth had on her writing. Portrayed as idyllic and ever-changing, Cather’s early life in Virginia contrasted sharply to the barren Nebraska prairie where she moved, at age nine, and initially thought “she’d come to the end of everything.” Fortunately, Cather quickly came to revere her fellow settlers and later incorporated their experiences and her love of the open space into her best-known novels. Throughout, Ehrlich makes good use of engaging details (children “built campfires on the beach and told stories and watched the flickering stars”) and imagery (“it was as if her personality and the world she had known were being erased”). Occasionally abrupt changes of time and place result from Ehrlich’s telescopic narrative of the half century Cather lived in East Coast cities, but she concludes with a satisfying assessment of the author’s literary achievement. Minor’s sepia and color paintings bring a warm sense of place to the urban and rural settings, and a timeline and appendix of female writers of Cather’s time are included. Ages 7–10. (Sept.)