Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dear Papa

Dear Papa

Anne Ylvisaker
Historical Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Candlewick Press, 2007   ISBN: 978-0763634025

It is 1943 and a year has passed since Isabelle's father died of an allergic reaction in a hospital. Her teacher at school has set her the task of writing a letter to someone she has not seen in a long time and Isabelle has decided to write to her Papa. It is comforting to tell him what is going on and what has changed since he died. In fact it is so comforting that she keeps on writing to him about her life and what is happening to the family. Mama has had to get a job. She cleans houses for people now and it is hard on her. Mama is frequently tired and she has little extra time for the children.

At Christmastime Mama's family comes over and suggests that she might consider letting them take over the responsibility of caring for some of her children. They think that she is trying to do too much. They suggest she send Isabelle, Inez and Irma, the oldest children, "to live with the uncles" so that her money and energy can "stretch farther." Needless to say Isabelle is appalled and she writes to her Aunt Izzy asking for her help. Unfortunately, her pleas for rescue are in vain and she is sent to live with Aunt Jaye and Uncle Edgar in Zumbrota, Minnesota. Isabelle misses her mother, her home, and her life in St. Paul enormously. However, she does her best and she writes her letters to her Papa, her family and her friends. In the end she cannot take it any more and she runs away and goes back home. Imagine her surprise when she discovers that her mother is no longer living in their old house. Instead, she is working as a live-in housekeeper for a Mr. Frank. Isabelle does not know what to think. The whole situation is very confusing and not at all to her liking, and it is only going to get more confusing.

Set against the backdrop of Home Front America, this touching, enormously appealing, often funny, and warm hearted story, truly shows readers how confusing life can be for a young girl who has lost her father and who is not at all pleased when her mother remarries. On the one hand she does not want to betray her father's memory and on the other hand, life must, in the end, go on. Written entirely in letter form, this is a book which will leave a lasting impression on anyone who reads it.