Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Part of Me

Part of Me

Kimberly Willis Holt
For ages 12 and up
Henry Holt, 2006   ISBN: 0312581459

It was1939 and Rose’s family life was falling apart at the seams. After the windmill broke Papa left them and nothing had been heard from him since. The fields had dried up but they had managed to keep the precious peach tree alive and so they lived on beans, cornbread and canned peaches for a long time.

Then the beans gave out, so Mama packed up the family and they drove to Houma, Louisiana, a little place on the bayou where Momma grew up. Their new life was nothing like the one they had had in Texas. Momma worked in an oyster processing plant and fourteen year old Rose, though she wanted to go to school very much, got a job driving the book mobile bus. Money was tight and her wages were needed. Rose had wanted to complete her schooling, to go to college perhaps, and to become a writer. But, instead she settled down to life on the bayou and when she was only sixteen she married a widower who had a little son.

After Rose tells us about these events in her life we move on to hear about some of the things that happened in the life of Rose’s son Merle Henry, a boy who loved to trap more than anything else and who dearly paid for not heeding his Mama’s advice one day.

Next there is Annabeth, Rose’s granddaughter, who wants, more than anything, to fit in and who discovers that there comes a time when it is more important to be true to oneself than to be popular in school.

Finally there is Kyle, Rose’s great-grandson. Kyle, unlike everyone else we have heard from so far, hates books. His world revolves around the classic rock music which he likes to listen to. And yet, Kyle cannot escape books altogether and one summer he comes to see that the written world does indeed have a something to offer him.

Each of the stories in this wonderful book stand alone and yet at the same time we see the connection between the generations, a connection which begins with Momma, who makes sure that her word loving Rose does not have to work shucking oysters. Books also connect these four generations. For each generation books and the stories within them give the young people the means to escape, they help them find courage, and they offer up enlightenment when it is most needed. Perhaps the most powerful part of the story is the way in which we are brought back, in the last chapter, to Rose who has, at the age of seventy-nine, written and had a book published.

This warm, beautifully written, and powerful book serves as a wonderful tribute to the people who struggled to survive during the Great Depression. Despite the hardships they faced, many of these people gave their families a lasting legacy which would give them courage in times of trouble.