Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Jacob I have loved

Jacob I have loved

Katherine Paterson
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 1990   ISBN: 978-0064403689

From the moment when they came into the world, just minutes apart, Sara Louise has always lived in her sister Caroline’s shadow. Caroline has always been delicate and beautiful. She has been the one with the lovely singing voice and the one whom everyone on the Island of Wrasse admires. So, angry dark Sara Louise stomps her way through life, choosing to be a tomboy and trying not to let anyone see her hurt. She goes crabbing in the Chesapeake with her friend Call, making money which she brings home to the family and she wonders if there will ever be a time when someone will love her as much as Caroline is loved.

When World War II breaks out life goes on as usual on the island for a while. Then a mysterious Captain arrives and Sara pretends that he is a German spy until the whole thing clearly becomes ridiculous. Then she and Call help the Captain work on his house and the three of them help care for another islander when she falls and hurts herself. Being the Captain’s friend gives Sara something else to think about besides her painful home situation.

When a hurricane hits the island a great deal does change. The Captain’s house is washed away and many of the islanders find themselves in dire financial straits. Sara’s family is not too badly off because they did not lose their boat, but they can no longer afford to send Caroline to the mainland for singing lessons. Call works on Sara Louis’s father’s fishing boat until he goes into the navy and after he is gone Sara Louis takes over. Though women usually never work on fishing boats on the island somehow it seems natural that Sara Louise should.

Then something happens which really shakes Sara Louise’s world. She has always dreamed of going to school on the mainland, and of being able to see the mountains one day. Some time after the Captain’s wife dies he offers to pay for Caroline to go to a special music school in Baltimore. Sara Louise can hardly believe that once again her sister has been shown such favoritism. Will she always be the ugly duckling whom no one wants and whom no one cares about? Will she be forever stuck on Wrasse, condemned to work on fishing boats?

In this often painful story Katherine Paterson beautifully captures the difficulties that can sometimes exist between siblings. Here Sara Louise is trapped by a crippling set of circumstances and watching her struggling with them is sometimes very hard. And yet, of the two sisters, she is the stronger, and because she is the stronger, she is finally able to break free on her own. Better still, she is able to find her own place in the world, a place which allows her to be herself.

Superb characterizations and a powerful story which is set in an interesting locale makes this an unforgettable award winning title.