Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson, is the story of a sixteen year old orphan girl. Just when she is about to be forced to drop out of high school to work as a maid in an Iowa boarding house, Hattie receives a cryptic letter asking her if she will accept her now deceased uncle's homestead claim in Montana. Upon arrival in Vida, Montana, she discovers that she must now lay several miles of fence line, and cultivate 40 acres of crops before the land is hers. Hattie's struggles with forces of nature are interwoven with the anti-German sentiment her neighbors are facing as a result of the on-going first World War. Hattie is a wonderful, resourceful, and intrepid heroine. This novel is a Caudill Award nominee and a Newbery Honor Book. Highly Recommended.
Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm, takes place in New Jersey, shortly after the second World War. Penny lives with her widowed, Protestant mother and grandparents, and spends most of her free time with the Italian, Catholic side of her family. The story follows Penny throughout the summer of 1953, during which her mother starts dating the milkman, her arm is nearly severed in a wringer washer accident, and she learns of the Italian American internment camp where her father died. This humorous, summertime story is also a Caudill Award nominee and a Newbery Honor Book. Highly Recommended.
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, by Lesley M. M. Blume, takes place in modern day Manhattan. Cornelia is the daughter of two brilliant pianists, Lucy Englehart, and her father, whom she has never met. Her mother is frequently absent for long periods of time, touring the world with her music. Lonely Cornelia locks herself away in a world of books, baffling grown ups with her immense vocabulary. When the famous author, Virginia Somerset, moves into the apartment next door, Cornelia finds a friend who speaks her language. Virginia shares the adventures she had in the 1950s when she traveled the world with her three equally vivacious sisters. These tales carry Cornelia from Morocco, to Paris, where the sisters encountered Pablo Picasso, to England, where Her Majesty has them thrown out of the Crufts Dog Show, to India, where they encounter true poverty and charity. Cornelia learns from Virginia how to turn vocabulary words into magical tales to be shared with friends and family.
Please note that Cornelia's father is described as a playboy, and she overhears her mother referring to his most recent in a string of marriages. However, these attributes are appropriately portrayed as unfortunate events in Cornelia's and her mother's lives. Highly Recommended.