Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Diary of Pringle Rose (Dear America)


The Diary of Pringle Rose (Dear America)
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Scholastic, 2013.  245 pgs.  Historical Fiction

     After a few years' break, the American Girl books are back in full flower, and The Diary of Pringle Rose is a fine, realistic, nuanced addition to the series. Pringle and Gideon's parents have been killed in a carriage accident and her aunt and uncle want to put Gideon--who would now be known as a Down syndrome child--into an asylum.  The two run away from home to find one of her mother's friends in Chicago, but the woman has herself been committed to an asylum so they move in with a family they met on the train. The book appears to be about the Great Fire in Chicago and it is, briefly, but it is mostly about labor relations in the late 1800s.  Pringle's father was a mine owner and the family she moves in with are union organizers. A budding romance comes to an unexpected finish, and though the story's ending is satisfying it is certainly not a happy ending in any conventional way. What distinguishes The Diary of Pringle Rose is Susan Bartoletti's masterful prose style, the breadth and depth of research that packs so much of 1870s America into these pages, and strong characters in realistic situations.  Well done.

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