Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Canning Season

The Canning Season

Polly Horvath
For ages 14 and up
Farrar, Straus and Giroux , 2003   ISBN: 978-0374399566

It is the beginning of summer, and Ratchet is thoroughly dismayed when her mother Henriette announces without any warning that Ratchet is going to spend the summer with her great aunts in Maine. Ratchet has never been to Maine, and she certainly has never met her twin relatives, Tilly and Penpen Menuto. How could her mother do this to her?

When Ratchet arrives at Glen Rosa, the Menuto house, things look pretty grim. The sisters are very old and decidedly peculiar. They live all alone in a very isolated spot and they tell the most gruesome and odd stories about their lives. Their mother committed suicide by cutting off her head and the sisters have always lived in the house by the sea choosing to share their lives with the woods and the blueberry bogs and the bears. They have no interest in the outside world, and they tell everyone that they plan on dying at the same time.

As time passes however, Ratchet begins to feel more and more comfortable at Glen Rosa. Tilly and Penpen are eccentric, but they are also kind and comfortable, unlike Ratchet’s thoughtless and self-centered mother. The two old ladies care about the fourteen year old girl. They also care about Harper, another teenager who ends up getting dumped on their doorstep. When Penpen has a heart attack and has to take it easy, the two teenage girls and the two old ladies develop a routine and become a family unit of sorts. Most important of all, Ratchet makes an important decision about her future, and for the first time in her life she stands up for herself.

This book, like Penpen and Tilly, is definitely unique. Often funny, occasional outrageous and shocking, and at times sad, it is the kind of book that leaves the reader feeling contemplative. Polly Horvath develops her characters beautifully, allowing them to evolve to give readers a satisfying ending to an exceptional tale.