Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Russell Freedman
Nonfiction
For ages 12 and up
Unabridged audiobook (Digital)
Performed/read by: Barbara Caruso
Recorded Books, 2008 

Eleanor Roosevelt was a shy, withdrawn, and plain little girl. Her plainness was made all the more obvious because her mother, Anna, was so lovely. Anna could not understand her lonely little daughter, but Eleanor’s father Elliot gave his little girl a great deal of love and attention. No matter what Elliot did, Eleanor loved and admired him.

   When Eleanor was eight her mother died. She dreamed that she and father would be able to be together always but this was not to be. TheRooseveltshad sent Elliot into a veritable exile because he had a severe drinking problem and could not be relied upon to care for his children.

   And so Eleanor and her brother Hall went to live with their maternal grandmother. Grandmother Hall was very strict and lacked imagination, and this meant that Eleanor’s life with her was dreary and colorless. Thankfully Grandmother Hall sent Eleanor to boarding school inEnglandwhen Eleanor was fifteen. Eleanor’s time in Allenswood greatly changed her. For once she was happy, successful, well liked, and confident. Because of this, when she came back to the United States when she was eighteen, Eleanor was better able to deal with life though she loathed the whole social whirl of “coming out” into society.

   Dutifully Eleanor went to the parties and dances, and in 1902 Eleanor started to see a young man at these events. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a distant cousin who had good looks, plenty of charm, and a sizeable fortune. It was not long before the two young people began to see more of one another, and in November of 1903 they became secretly engaged.

   Eleanor’s life withFranklinwas not always easy, but it did give her the opportunity to spread her wings and to become on ofAmerica’s most influential women.

   Russell Freedman is a master of this genre, and in this biography he makes Eleanor Roosevelt’s story interesting and thought provoking. Listeners will be able to see how much Eleanor changed from being a shy child to a purposeful and driven woman. Eleanor broke many of the societal rules of her time, and in so doing she made people question the role of women in society. 

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