Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Family Tree: Better to Wish

Family Tree: Better to Wish

Ann M. Martin
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic Press, 2013   ISBN: 978-0545359429

It is the 13th of August in 1930 and Abby Nichols and her sister Rose are very excited because tonight they will be going to the traveling fair. Abby is looking forward to spending her money on the sideshow, but Rose is going to use hers to win a little tea set at the ring toss. She is willing to her use up her entire ten cents if she has to. Though ten cents might not mean much to some children, to Abby and Rose, and their friend Orrin, it means a lot. The country is feeling the pinch of the Great Depression and ten cent pieces are precious.

   Generally speaking, though money is tight, Abby, Rose, Pop, and Mama have a good life. On occasion two dark shadows hang over them: Mama’s grief and Pop’s temper. Mama has lost two babies and there are days when her loss and depression overwhelms her. Pop is a demanding, small minded man who keeps his wife and daughters firmly under his control. He does not want Abby to spend time with Orrin because Orrin comes from a Catholic Irish family. He does not want her to play with Marie, because Marie is also from Catholic immigrant stock. Abby can only spend time with white Protestants from old Republican families, and that is that. Most of the time Abby does as she is told, but when it comes to Orrin, she dares to disobey her father, and she finds ways to spend time with the boy who has been her friend for most of her life.

   By mid 1931, Pop is doing very well. He got a job doing carpentry work on a new house in Barnegat Point, and the owner was so impressed that she commissioned him to make some furniture for her. While so many other families are struggling financially, Abby’s is getting more and more prosperous.

   After Pop completes the furniture commission he is able to set up his own furniture making business. He sets up a workshop and gets employees. In short, he is going up in the world and he is determined to make sure that everyone in the area knows that he is a hard-working and increasingly well-to-do man. It is important to him that his daughters behave in a manner that he thinks is fitting, and he does not care if his wishes do not suit their needs or wants.

   Eventually, Abby gets to a point when she has to make a decision. Is she going to toe the line and do what her father wants, or is she going to start living her own life.

   As this story unfolds an interesting time in America’s history is brought to life as readers witness what happens to a young girl whose family members have a variety of problems. They will see how race and class divides society, and how women (and girls) are expected to abide by certain societal rules.

   This is the first book in what promises to be a fascinating series.