Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Trouble with Jeremy Chance (Historical Fiction for Young Readers)

The Trouble with Jeremy Chance (Historical Fiction for Young Readers)

George Harrar
Historical Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Milkweed Editions, 2007   ISBN: 978-1571316691

When Jeremy does something, he always does it wholeheartedly and fully. Sometimes this is a good thing, but at other times his dedication to whatever he is attempting to do can cause problems. It is 1919 and "The War to End all Wars" is, at long last, over.  Jeremy's older brother, Davey, is on his way home from the battlefields of France, and his family cannot wait to see him again. Davey, like so many other young men, had a hard time.  Jeremy and his father have had a hard war too, for Jeremy's mother was one of the many casualties of the Spanish Influenza. She caught the dread disease and died from it so suddenly that nothing could be done to save her.

Just when things should be looking up, a terrible disagreement develops between Jeremy's father and their next door neighbor, elderly Mr. Cutter. Because of the argument, Pa builds a "spite fence," and Jeremy finds himself caught in the middle of these two men, both of whom he cares for very much. Then his father goes too far. Pa accuses Jeremy of being disrespectful, whips him, and forbids him to go and visit Mr. Cutter. Jeremy is appalled at this unfair treatment. He knows something about Mr. Cutter's side of the argument and yet Pa won't let him speak. The unfairness of this is just too much, and Jeremy runs away from home. He heads to Boston so that he can meet his brother's ship when it comes in.

What follows is an adventure to beat all adventures. What is truly wonderful is that the most outrageous part of Jeremy's quest  is actually true - the author mentions this fact in the afterword in the book. As the story unfolds, readers are taken back into a time of great change, and we are able to see the huge disparity that once existed between country life and city life.

In this story the author has created a wonderful character who, though he has a knack for getting into trouble and for making some dubious decisions, also has a big heart. Jeremy feels things deeply and is a sensitive boy. We see that grownups can  make mistakes, and that they are not infallible. They too can be unfair, but they are also capable of saying that they are sorry.

With great skill the author of this book gets inside the head of this bright and likable boy. We are able identify with him, laugh about his actions, and we will remember him long after we have put the book down.