cover image Nothing Here But Trees

Nothing Here But Trees

Jean Van Leeuwen. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2178-4

Three well-honed first-person narratives add up to an outstanding biography of one remarkable woman: Mary Breckinridge, founder of the still-extant Frontier Nursing Service in the Appalachian Mountains. After being widowed twice and having lost two children, Breckenridge enrolled in nursing school, determined to help other youngsters live. Wells takes up Breckenridge's story upon her arrival in 1923 Kentucky, through the perspectives of three people whose lives were greatly affected by her mission. John Hawkins, the young son of a ""river man"" injured while riding newly cut logs down the rapids, tells how Mary fortuitously arrived at their doorstep before the ""horse doctor with a bone saw"" came to saw his father's leg off. An 18-year-old nurse who travels from her native Scotland to work with Mary describes her battle to convince the mountain residents (who are terrified of needles) to let the nurses vaccinate them against rampant diphtheria. In the final--and most stirring--of the accounts, Pearl refuses to talk after witnessing her mother's death from childbirth. Through drafting the girl into her cause, Mary moves Pearl to speak again. Wells's careful attention to the details and hardships of mountain living authenticates these achingly real accounts, as she spells out both the enormity of Breckenridge's challenge and the triumph of even the smallest victories. McCarty's finely crafted drawings, based on actual photographs, add to the historical accuracy and elegance of the volume. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)