The Trouble with May Amelia

Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Reading Range: 4.0 ( AR Finder)
Interest Range: 3-5 (AR Finder)
Plot:  This story is set in 1900 in Washington state. It tells the story of May Amelia and her family.  She is the only girl in a family of boys. The family is poor and has to work very hard to make a living off their farm located on the Nasal River.  May Amelia is always working to prove she has sisu, which in Finnish means “guts.”  Her family is Swedish immigrants  However, she gets into trouble all the time by burning the family dinner when her mother is birthing babies for the neighbors.  Things do not go well for the family after the father invests in a bad scheme offered by a snake oil type salesman. May Amelia translates for her father because he does speak English well.  Her father decides to invest by mortgaging the farm and so does the rest of the small community. All the farmers go belly up and lose their farms when the truth is found out.  May Amelia’s father blames her for their troubles and stops talking to her and acknowledging her existence. Everything goes wrong for the family. Her favorite brother loses his hand in an accident at the lumber mill and her mother goes to work at a fish cannery. The family tries their best to get back on their feet.
Review: The thing that strike me about the book is May Amelia is the only girl her age in the story. There are no other girls she can be friends with. The only other girl in the story is her cousin, Helmi, who is three. Helmi is treated differently than May Amelia. The boys tease her and her father is cruel to her telling her he thinks girls are pretty much worthless. The boys are charmed by Helmi and treat like a girl. Even her father is nice to Helmi. When they lose their money her father pretty much blames her for everything that happened. I did not like her father because of how mean he was to her. He saw girls as not worth much especially since they are living in the frontier. He needs boys to work the land. It is interesting to read how she is expected to act like a boy and a girl. They expected her to work the land and act like a lady. Even through I did not like that part of the book, I did enjoy reading about May Amelia. She is a likable character as she tries her best. I would recommend this book to people who like historical fiction.
Additional Info:
I did not know this when I read the book but it is the sequel to another book called “Our Only May Amelia.” Honestly, it did feel like I was reading a sequel and that it was it own book.
Main Characters:
May Amelia-May Amelia is the only girl in her family. She tries her best.
Mamma-She is May Amelia’s mother. She helps women have their babies.
Pappa-He is May Amelia’s father. He does not like her because she is a girl.
Wilbert-He is her favorite brother.

Theme:  Family – blessing or curse, Greed as downfall, Oppression of women

Bibliographic Info:

Holm, Jennifer L. (2011). The trouble with May Amelia. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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