Bernice Thurman Hunter.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1995. 192pp, paper, $4.99.
Family life-Canada-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 - 13.
Review by Jennifer Sullivan.
Feb. 18, 1926
Dear Mama, today I am very sad because it is six years since you went
away. I wish I had a sister to talk to. Oh, Mama, why did you have to
die? And why did Daddy let Aunt Bessie take our baby? Didn't he love her
anymore? Maybe he doesn't love any of us.
What do kids today have in common with those of sixty years ago? Plenty,
according to award-winning writer Bernice Thurman Hunter, whose latest
novel, Amy's Promise, is set in the 1920s. The author of
the much-loved "Booky" trilogy again treats us to a delightful and
nostalgic glimpse at growing up -- which also manages to explore some
serious and contemporary issues.
When her mother dies at an early age, young Amy Phair promises to
look after the little ones. Along with her stern Gramma Davis, Amy must
take care of the household chores and raise her boisterous younger
brothers. To make matters worse, Amy's baby sister has been sent to live
with Aunt Bessie in Edmonton, and her father is an alcoholic who
constantly quarrels with Gramma. And why is Amy left with all the chores
while her younger brothers are allowed to play? Amy is filled with
indignation when Gramma Davis tells her that a boy can t be seen pegging
out the washing. She envies the idyllic life of her best friend Winnie
Plum, who lives in a pretty house, doesn't do a lick of work, and has two
parents who love her.
Thurman Hunter is especially adept at evoking time and place,
infusing her stories with a quality of warm reminiscence. She evokes
Toronto during the 1920s as Amy and her brothers gather around the radio
to listen to "Amos and Andy," take a ride on the trolley, and
contentedly munch on brown-sugar sandwiches. Part of the great charm of
the book lies in Amy's ability to find joy in such simple pleasures. A
sleep-over at Winnie's house, a new pair of grey suede shoes, and the
soothing rhythm of a piano all make Amy feel like she's the luckiest girl
in the world.
Amy is a typical heroine: full of infectious spirit and optimism
that she manages to pass on to those around her -- but she does have
faults like jealousy and selfishness. All of the characters in
Amy's Promise are multi-layered and motivated by a wide
range of emotions; Thurman Hunter's rich characterizations propel the
story beyond the perimeters of mere nostalgia.
The contemporary themes make an excellent bridge between past and
present, and Amy's Promise would be a good introduction to
studies on alcoholism, one-parent families, or gender stereotyping.
My only complaint is that the fairy-tale conclusion ties things up
too neatly; alcoholics are not reformed overnight, broken families not so
easily mended. However, it's also satisfying to stumble upon a happy
ending. Amy's Promise is a lesson in understanding, as well
as a fun and educational jaunt into the past. Highly readable, it will no
doubt be most entertaining to girls.
Jennifer Sullivan has a Master's degree in English Literature and
works within the Children's Literature Service of the National Library of
Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
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