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Children's Literature Reviews
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The ballad of Lucy Whipple
by Karen Cushman.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Clarion Books, c1996.
195 p. ; 24 cm.


In 1849, twelve-year-old California Morning Whipple, who renames herself Lucy, is distraught when her mother moves the family from Massachusetts to a rough California mining town.

Best Books:

Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
American Booksellers Pick of the Lists, Fall, 1996 ; American Booksellers Association; United States
Best Children's Books of the Year, 1996 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Booklist Book Review Stars, Aug. 1996 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1996 ; American Library Association; United States
Books to Read Aloud to Children of All Ages, 2003 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Children's Books, 1996 ; New York Public Library; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Literature Choice List, 1997 ; Children's Literature; United States
Cuffies: Children's Booksellers Choose Their Favorite (and not-so-favorite) Books of the Year, 1996 ; Cahners; United States
Eureka! California in Children's Literature, 2003 ; Book Wholesalers, Inc.; United States
Instructor (Intermediate), 1996 ; Instructor (Intermediate); United States
Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1996 ; United States
Lasting Connections, 1996 ; Book Links; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1997 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1996 ; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 1996 ; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal Best Books, 1997 ; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, August 1996 ; Cahners; United States
Teachers' Choices, 1997 ; International Reading Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award, 1997 Winner Middle Grade Readers United States
Friends of Children and Literature (FOCAL) Award, 1998 Winner United States
John and Patricia Beatty Award, 1997 Winner United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award Reading List, 1998-1999 ; Nominee; Arkansas
Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 2000 ; Nominee; Wyoming
Lone Star Reading List, 1998-1999 ; Texas
Maine Student Book Award, 1997-1998 ; Nominee; Maine
Mark Twain Award, 1998-1999 ; Nominee; Missouri
MRA Reader's Choice Award, 2000 ; Nominee; Grades 6-8; Michigan
Nevada Young Readers' Award, 1998 ; Nominee; Intermediate; Nevada
Nutmeg Children's Book Award, 2000 ; Nominee; Connecticut
South Carolina Junior Book Award, 1999 ; Nominee; South Carolina
Utah Children's Book Awards, 1999 ; Nominee; Children's Fiction; Utah
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1998-1999 ; Master List; Kansas

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 5.8
Accelerated Reader Points 7
Accelerated Vocabulary, Literacy Skills

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 11
Lexile Measure 1030


Hazel Rochman (Booklist, Aug. 1996 (Vol. 92, No. 22))
With zest and wit, Cushman gives us the domestic side of the western frontier adventure--what it was like for women and especially children. Just as in her Newbery Medal winner and Honor Book about medieval England, her hero is a young girl who names herself and tries to find her place in a rough, raucous world. Lucy tells her story in the first person and in occasional letters to her grandparents back "home" in Massachusetts: how she hates being stuck out in the California wilderness with her bossy, widowed mother, who dragged her family there and is running a boardinghouse for bellowing miners in a town knee-deep in dirt. Cushman's research shows at times, but there's joy in the daily details (bread made with flour and water, with a drop of molasses to kill the taste of weevils) and in the tall-tale exaggeration of Lucy's narrative (she lives in a space so small "I can lie in bed and stir the beans on the stove without getting up" ). There's sadness, too, as when her younger brother becomes sick and dies, and there's no doctor to help. In fact, the tone is reminiscent of Chaplin's movie The Gold Rush, with its mixture of farce and pathos. Many readers will recognize their own dislocations in Lucy's reluctant adventure. In a vividly written afterword, Cushman places Lucy's personal narrative in its historical context. Category: Middle Readers. 1996, Clarion, $13.95. Gr. 5-8. Starred Review.

Jan Lieberman (Children's Literature)
The women of the gold rush were resourceful, hardworking, adventurous and unappreciated. Karen Cushman lets us experience the life of one family in The Ballad of Lucy Whipple. Mrs Whipple, a widow, arrives in the shabby mining town of Lucky Diggins with her 4 children. To make ends meet, she opens a boarding house where her daily life is nothing but hard work and her only helper is her daughter Lucy, aka California, the eldest of the 4 children. Lucy, an avid reader, would rather spend time under a tree writing letters and reading. She is feisty, and obsessed with her dream of returning "home" to Massachusetts. But this is a ballad and like all ballads this will be read and reread to savor the moments of joy, sadness, humor, tenderness, and love in the life of the Whipples. 1996, Clarion, $13.95. Ages 10 up.

Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature)
In the summer, it is hot and dusty; the land is so parched that water has to be hauled to keep the vegetable garden from shriveling up. In the winter it is freezing cold with icicles hanging down from the tent after a freezing rain. That's the way it is in the gold fields of California where Lucy and her family are trying to find their own new lives after their Pa died. Lucy longs for Massachusetts, but her mother seems to thrive on the challenge offered by life in the West. Lots of interesting characters and descriptions of the hard life facing the miners and others whose livelihoods are part of the gold fever make for an amusing and informative look at California and the struggles of one girl to find herself and a place to call home. 1996, Clarion, $13.95. Ages 11 up.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1996)
The recent Newbery medalist plunks down two more strong-minded women, this time in an 1849 mining camp--a milieu far removed from the Middle Ages of her first novels, but not all that different when it comes to living standards. Arvella Whipple and her three children, Sierra, Butte, and 11-year-old California Morning, make a fresh start in Lucky Diggins, a town of mud, tents, and rough-hewn residents. It's a far cry from Massachusetts; as her mother determinedly settles in, California rebelliously changes her name to Lucy and starts saving every penny for the trip back east. Ever willing to lose herself in a book when she should be doing errands, Lucy is an irresistible teenager; her lively narration and stubborn, slightly naive self-confidence (as well as a taste for colorful invective: "Gol durn, rip-snortin' rumhole and cussed, dad-blamed, dag diggety, thundering pisspot," she storms) recall the narrator of Catherine, Called Birdy (1994), without seeming as anachronistic. Other characters are drawn with a broader brush, a shambling platoon of unwashed miners with hearts (and in one case, teeth) of gold. Arvella eventually moves on, but Lucy has not only lost her desire to leave California, but found a vocation as well: town librarian. With a story that is less a period piece than a timeless and richly comic coming-of-age story, Cushman remains on a roll. 1996, Clarion, $13.95. Starred Review. © 1996 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

K. Millburg (Parent Council Volume 4)
Lucy has unwillingly come with mother and her brother and sisters to Lucky Diggins, California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Lucy is miserable living in the tents among the dirty, rough miners. All she really wants is to return home to Massachusetts to her grandparents and books. This historical fiction presents a fascinating time in our history through the eyes of a child. 1996, Clarion Books, $13.95. Ages 8 to 12.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In a voice so heartbreakingly bitter that readers can taste her homesickness, California Morning Whipple describes her family's six-year stay in a small mining town during the Gold Rush. Her mother, a restless widow with an acid tongue, has uprooted her children from their home in Massachusetts to make a new life in Lucky Diggins. California rebels by renaming herself Lucy and by hoarding the gold dust and money she earns baking dried apple and vinegar pies, saving up for a journey home. Over years of toil and hardship, Lucy realizes, somewhat predictably, that home is wherever she makes one. As in her previous books, Newbery Award winner Cushman (The Midwife's Apprentice) proves herself a master at establishing atmosphere. Here she also renders serious social issues through sharply etched portraits: a runaway slave who has no name of his own, a preacher with a congregation of one, a raggedy child whose arms are covered in bruises. The writing reflects her expert craftsmanship; for example, Lucy's brother Butte, dead for lack of a doctor, is eulogized thus: "He was eleven years old, could do his sums, and knew fifty words for liquor." A coming-of-age story rich with historical flavor. Ages 10-14. (Aug.)

Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 1996 (Vol. 50, No. 1))
Bodaciously sorrow-burdened and wretched," California Morning Whipple has been transported by her free-spirited, widowed mother to Lucky Diggins, California, where they will run a boarding house out of an oversized tent; California Morning (call her "Lucy," please) intends to return to the home of her civilized New England relatives just as soon as she can sell enough pies to earn her coach fare. As Lucy pours out her miseries in letters to grandparents and aunts and cousins, the reader quickly recognizes the girl's kinship with the less-than-couth 49ers she initially despises and senses from her feisty narration ("I liked writing letters. There wasn't much else to do for fun in Lucky Diggins if you didn't dig or drink") that she will eventually put down roots here. Over the course of three years, Lucy matures from adolescent to young woman, loses a brother and gains a stepfather; Lucky Diggins itself booms and burns, and its itinerant population commits to making the settlement into a town. While Cushman delicately limns the ever-strengthening bond between Lucy and her new home, the episodic story lacks momentum, and the host of intriguing characters (a runaway slave, an abused neighbor girl, the amorous Gent who woos but fails to win Lucy's mother) who influence her decision to stay are shallowly developed. Surely the death of brother Butte and Mama's departure with her new husband could have been more touching had the reader been afforded the opportunity to know them better. Still, the audience wholeheartedly shares Lucy's satisfaction when at last she smells "burned beans and mules and privies . . . as familiar as morning" and proudly reclaims her birth name, California Morning Whipple. Ad--Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1996, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1996, Clarion, [208p], $14.95. Grades 5-7.


Frontier and pioneer life--California--Fiction.
Family life--California--Fiction.
California--Gold discoveries--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.C962 Bal 1996
95045257 [Fic]
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