Carol Lynch Williams
Linda Paulson Adams
Deseret Book , Cinnamon Tree , 1997. Softcover:
Suggested retail price: $4.95 (US)
This book is one of the Latter-day Daughters series, a series ofsimple chapter books aimed toward LDS girls ages 7-11, whichcompetes with the nationally popular "American Girls" series. As far as price competition goes, these little paperbacks winhands-down. Hardcover American Girls books retail at $14.95,and the paperback editions are not much less, commanding about$8.95 for a small, 60-80 page book that a fast young reader cango through in a few hours. However, my daughter mentioned to methat she enjoys the Latter-day Daughters books quite a bit, butstill finds the American Girls books have "more interestingproblems." (I still need to read one to compare for myself, butI'm guessing she means the plots are more complex.) The otheradvantage American Girls has over this series as a whole is thateach character in their series has a set of several booksdevoted to her, where the Latter-day Daughters series, itappears, has only one book per character. I think this would bea good place to expand, frankly; the stories are short, and theend (of this one, at least) leaves one wanting to know moreabout what happens "next."
Catherine's Remembrance was a fast read for me; I devoured itin about an hour's time. Rachel, my seven "and three-quarters"year old daughter, read it in about three hours. This was her second Latter-day Daughters book, and my first.
I found it to be an exciting story that kept moving fromthe very beginning. Carol Williams writes well, crafting asolid story in few words, giving just enough vivid details to givereaders a good impression of how things looked and felt. It isconcise, tight writing, but has a good, easy flow to it, so thatit moves fast and keeps one turning the pages. Her charactersare well and vividly drawn.
It tells the story of Catherine, a twelve-year old girl in Nauvoo during the February 1846 crossing of theMissouri river, and takes place as her family prepares to leaveNauvoo. The main conflict of the story is Catherine'suncertainty about leaving. She has moved with her familyfrequently and is longing to settle down and be able to stay inNauvoo. She questions her parents' faith, that has constantlyuprooted them, and wonders whether she will ever have thetestimony that they do, which is that the Church is true andthey are doing the right thing by leaving once again.
The title is derived from two matching "remembrance" boxes herfather made for her and her mother. Catherine's is nearly emptyas she loads it into her family's wagon, and she wonders if shewill ever have anything useful enough to remember, to cling to.
Here is an example from the book that describes Catherine'ssometimes headstrong nature, and shows how Williams isremarkably able to sum up people and situations vividly withoutmany words:
& & & & "Perhaps this trip west will change your spirit some, so thatyou'll show a bit more obedience to your elders," [Aunt Milliesaid.]
& & & & I jumped to my feet, ready to spout out the anger that bubbledup inside me. .& .& . Then I saw Ma's and Pa's faces. .& .& .
& & & & I closed my eyes for a moment and then, opening them, lookedright at Aunt Millie and said, "I hope you sleep well, Auntie. I hope that Uncle Ford won't snore too loud this night."
& & & & Surprise moved across Aunt Millie's face. I hurried quick withwhat I was saying. "I only know that he snores because I heardyou talking once at the Sunday meeting."
& & & & Aunt Millie's mouth dropped open. "Why, you wereeavesdropping."
& & & & "No ma'am. I was standing with a group of my friends. You weretalking so loud everyone heard it. Some of the girls laughed,but not me. I've seen Uncle Ford napping in your front room. So I do wish things get better with him. Maybe you have someherbs that would stop his snores."
& & & & Aunt Millie straightened her shoulders and started to saysomething, but I spoke again.
& & & & "And I hope, too, that those warts on your knees have dissolvedto nothing. Maybe that poultice worked."
& & & & Aunt Millie's mouth flapped. Then she turned on her heel and,without even a good-bye to Ma and Pa, left. When the doorclosed, my folks turned on me together.
& & & & "Catherine Olive Hansen," Ma said. (17-18)
****SPOILER ALERT:**** I'm going to spill the end of the storyhere, because I believe it ought to be discussed, so anyone whois planning to read this book and doesn't want to know theending ought to skip the next paragraph.
I was a bit surprised, however, to find out that Catherine'smother dies in childbirth in the second-to-last chapter of thestory. I found it unusual (and in a strange way, refreshing,even though I admit to shedding tears!) for a children's book toforgo the Disney-like happy ending and tell the story as itreally was during that time period. This scenario was quitecommon at the time of the Nauvoo Exodus, and many children intruth lost their mothers this way. There are no graphic detailsincluded about labor or childbirth or death that would begruesome or nightmarish to a young reader. I felt it fit thebook well, and my only complaint is that its occurrence so nearthe end of the book didn't leave much time for us to find outwhat happens to Catherine after such a significant life event,as she crosses the plains while caring for her new baby sister. I wasn't quite ready for the story to end when it did. I wouldvery much like to read a sequel about her and the adventures shehad after the events of crossing the freezing Missouri.
It is interesting that her mother's death occurs just asCatherine is beginning to find her own testimony. This is whereshe changes the most. Before, she has been headstrong, willful,and ready to turn back, but as she receives a feeling of peacein her heart, she catches the vision her parents have andunderstands that "All will be well," remembering her mother'slast words to her. For me, it was almost too fast of aturnaround for her character; but the elements are clearly therethat show how the Spirit changes her heart, gently and simply. Besides, for this genre, there is a need to keep the story shortand fairly simple, so I felt that overall the subject washandled well enough to be believable. For example, Catherine issent to bed in the wagon while her mother labors to deliver thebaby in a nearby makeshift tent, and finally falls asleep. Thenshe says:
& & & & "I woke before morning though I wasn't sure why. Except for thesound of the rain, the camp was still.... I thought of Ma. Apeaceful feeling filled up my heart. It was such a big feelingthat I had to gasp to take in a breath. It was there only aminute.
& & & & "It's true," I said, to the dark. "Ma and Pa are right." Shivers covered my arms and legs. (67)
In the following pages, she learns of what has transpired duringthe night, and through her tears and pain afterwards, thepeaceful feeling stays with her, and this helps her immensely asshe begins to care for her new baby sister.
***END OF SPOILER PASSAGE***
Even though I really liked the book, I'm going to give it oneminus point for its handling of the "Glossary" section in theback. All of the words in the glossary are marked in the text,the first time a possibly unfamiliar term is used, withan asterisk. (For example, in the first above quoted passage,the word "poultice" was marked.) This was distracting to me. I don't know if it would be as distracting to a child. (Infact, Rachel tells me she didn't even notice the "stars" whileshe was reading, but did use the glossary to look up unfamiliarwords.) Also, some of the terms marked with an asterisk wereillustrated with a small black and white drawing right next tothe word in the text, so this method felt slightly redundant. Ithink having a glossary in the back is a very good idea, sinceit explained terms such as "in a family way" and "buttonhook"which are now archaic. But I also felt that (going by my ownchild's vocabulary), many of the definitions were probablyunnecessary, such as explaining the phrases "the oxen were yokedtogether*" (p. 29) and "the canvas wagon cover*" (p. 38) -- mostPrimary age LDS children have seen pictures of oxen and coveredwagons, and are at least somewhat familiar with these terms. Also, in second and third grades (which is the age andapproximate grade level this book is aimed towards), figuringout vocabulary by context is a commonly taught skill. I'd rathersee readers of this age and (or) skill level work a little tosort it out by context (or if necessary, find and use a realdictionary).
It's also true that children don't mind flipping back and forthin this way as much as (many) adults would, and frequently findthis kind of feature sort of fun. My opinion may be coloredsimply by the fact I'm now a boring old grown-up. So, that's avery small, picky minus point, and overall the book was awonderful read about a plucky young pioneer girl that many oftoday's young girls will very easily relate to.
If your child has a very sensitive nature, it may be wise totell them this is a "sad ending" book before they read it, sothey are prepared for it. There isn't really anything on thecover text that foreshadows the depth of their "trials," thoughas an experienced reader and writer I picked up on clearforeshadowing during the story's progress. My daughter, Rachel,didn't seem to be adversely affected by the ending at all,though she does make a mild comment about it in her review(below.)
This is a touching story of a little girl's faith as she takeson new challenges and trials. I enjoyed reading it very much.It is most definitely a recommendable book, both for childrenand adults, and well worth the small cover price.
Linda P. Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1998 Linda Adams < email@example.com >