Kirby Larson’s ‘Hattie Ever After’
By Mary Quattlebaum,
The early 20th century is suddenly chic, thanks to “Downton Abbey,” the BBC series that is entertaining teens as well as their older relatives. Those enthralled by the styles and shenanigans of the British household may be intrigued by “Hattie Ever After,” a YA novel set in 1919 America. Our heroine, Hattie Inez Brooks, is no pampered earl’s daughter, though, but a plucky orphan first introduced in Kirby Larson’s “Hattie Big Sky,” winner of a Newbery Honor in 2007. This sequel opens with Hattie, 17, trying to figure out her next step, now that her Montana farm has failed. In the matter of a few chapters, she leaves the Treasure State to travel with a troupe of vaudevillians to San Francisco and a job as a charwoman for the Chronicle, one of the city’s preeminent newspapers. But Hattie is determined to exchange her feather duster for a reporter’s pad and search out the hard news, like her idol, the legendary journalist Nellie Bly. Larson brings this bustling city to vivid life through glimpses of Chinatown, Great Beach Highway and the Chronicle offices, with their “inky perfume” and clattering presses. The novel also has a nice tie-in to National Women’s History Month, exploring as it does the changing role of women in the post-World War I workplace. Hattie befriends (and sometimes interviews) actresses, nurses, cleaning ladies, a hard-nosed female reporter and a beguiling con artist. Don’t let the publisher’s “12 and up” age range stop you from sharing this lively tale with younger newshounds and history buffs. With her can-do spirit, thirst for adventure and squeaky-clean romance, Hattie, despite her advanced teen years, may appeal most to readers 9 to 13.
HATTIE EVER AFTER By Kirby Larson Delacorte. $16.99. Age 12 and up