Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson – Reviewed by Allison Jackson

When I was in second or third grade, my parents went to California for a few days.  I was excited because it meant I got to stay with my best friend for more than just one night. I always loved spending the night at her house; it was so different from mine.  There were five children in my family; only two in hers.  She had a very girly bedroom that she didn’t have to share with a sister! And she had not only a Barbie doll, but also the Barbie playhouse.  Her family ate dinner in the dining room; we ate in the kitchen. I was thrilled to spend a couple of nights at her house.  One afternoon while I was there we went to climb a nearby mountain (probably more of a hill than an actual mountain).  I was small for my age, and fearful of many things.  At one point the climb became very difficult for me, and I got scared.  To this day, I can still remember standing on the side of that mountain, facing west toward California,  crying and calling for my parents.

That’s understandable, right? I mean, I was only seven or eight years old. Not at all uncommon behavior for a young child.

 

Fast forward to senior year in high school.  I’m older now, I’ve grown, I’ve matured.  No longer a child.  It was time to decide which college to attend.  We live in the desert of Arizona.  My older sister had gone to Northern Arizona University up in the mountains of Flagstaff about two and a half hours away.  I had always loved Flagstaff, and especially loved the NAU campus when we visited my sister there.  I thought it would be amazing to go to college there in the beautiful pine trees and the cool mountain air, with the quaint older buildings which reminded me of the pictures I had seen of universities in the East, my ideal of what going to college would be like…but I chose Arizona State University in Tempe- a half an hour from my home because NAU seemed so far away from my family.  Obviously I had not grown up to be a strong, independent young lady.

 

I share this as a possible explanation for why I love and am drawn to strong female characters, especially in literature for middle grades and young adults. Not surprisingly I loved Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.  Hattie was a character who stayed with me long after I finished the book so I was thrilled to find out Hattie’s story would continue.  The day Hattie Ever After was released I left school as soon as the students were dismissed to run to the bookstore to get my copy.  I’m often disappointed in sequels, whether books or movies.

Not this time.  As with Hattie Big Sky I found myself captivated by Hattie’s story, eager to find out what would happen, at the same time knowing that each turn of the page brought me closer to the end of her story.

Hattie Ever After picks up where Hattie Big Sky left off.  We follow Hattie as she continues to strike out on her own, pursuing her dreams, this time as a big-city newspaper reporter.  Although she doesn’t have to endure the hardships of a 16-year-old girl trying to prove up a homestead claim in Montana on her own during World War I, there are still plenty of challenges for Hattie: making her way to a big city, getting a job at a newspaper, then becoming a reporter, and proving herself in a male-dominated profession.  And let’s not forget about Charlie: does she follow him or her own dream?

I’m a lot older now, no longer the child crying for her mother nor the college freshman afraid to stray too far from home, and yet even now I could not do the things teenaged Hattie has; I can’t even IMAGINE myself doing them.  But I believe that Hattie can and does; Kirby Larson has created a very real, very believable character.  I’m sad that Hattie’s story is finished, but I will forever after “know” Hattie.

Hattie Ever After combines two of my favorites in literature: strong female characters and historical fiction.  When I grow up, I want to be just like Hattie Inez Brooks.

 

Allison Jackson is a third grade teacher who loves sharing her passion for reading, books and learning with her students (and anyone else who will listen).  She wishes she had better words to express how much she loves Hattie Ever After. It is now one of her favorite books. She is a proud member of the Nerdy Book Club.  You can find her on Twitter @azajacks.