Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Wonder of Charlie Anne

The Wonder of Charlie Anne

Kimberly Newton Fusco
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2010   ISBN: 978-0375861048

Charlie Anne has suffered a great deal in the last six months or so. Her mother died soon after giving birth, the baby died, and then cousin Mirabel came to live with Charlie Anne’s family. To say that Charlie Anne dislikes Mirabel is an understatement. The woman works Charlie Anne all day long and, if this is not bad enough, she also wants to help Charlie Anne to “become a young lady.”

Life is hard on Charlie Anne’s family farm because of the Great Depression. For a while they manage, but finally Charlie Anne’s father decides that he has to go north to work on President Roosevelt’s roads. Charlie Anne is furious because she believes that her mother would not want their family to split up. She cannot bear the thought that her father will leave her with Mirabel. It is just too terrible to contemplate. Unfortunately Papa and Charlie Anne’s eldest brother soon leave, and Charlie Anne is left with Mirabel, her annoying sister Ivy, her little brother Peter, and her little sister Birdie.

Somehow, Charlie Anne copes, taking every miserable day as it comes. Then the neighbor who lives next door, Mr. Jolly, brings home a new wife who is called Rosalyn. Not only does Roslyn wearing honest-to-goodness flaming red pants, but she also has an adopted daughter called Phoebe who is African American. Most of the people in the neighborhood avoid Rosalyn because they don’t want to have anything to do with the “colored” girl, but Charlie Anne soon grows very fond of Rosalyn and Phoebe.  Even though Mirabel does not want her to, Charlie Anne she goes to see them and to play with Phoebe. Having these two people in her life helps makes things more bearable for Charlie Anne for a while, until her life unravels even more.

This incredible book will give readers a rich and often powerful picture of what it was like to live on a farm in America during the Great Depression. In addition, the author explores the nature of racism and she shows, through Charlie Anne’s eyes, how racism makes so little sense, especially when you are young and lonely. With inspirational flashes of humor and incredible sensitivity, the author tells a riveting and meaningful story.