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“The greatest gift is a passion for reading.”
Summary: Sixth grader Mary Clare O’Brian has her life figured out. She wants to join the convent after 8th grade because she *knows* that is what it takes to be a saint. Mary Clare begins corresponding with the Mother Superior at the Saint Mary Magdalene Convent and School, in hopes that Mother Superior can give her some tips for the challenges in her life. Her Mom is losing her faith and gotten a job (after her dad lost his); her brother is talking about moving to Canada to avoid the draft; and there are racial tensions in nearby Milwaukee. Becoming a saint is hard. Much harder than Mary Clare thought. This coming of age story is a first-person narrative about a young girl in the 1960s.
Type of Reading: read aloud book, independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 12 and up
Interest Level: 9 to 13
Reading Level: 5.4
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: As a Catholic who grew up after Vatican II, this was an enjoyable, humorous book to read. Mary Clare is a girl that many a teen can relate to.
Pros: With Mary Clare as narrator, the story has a Are You There God, it's Me Margaret feel to it. Teen girls can experience life as a teen in the 1960s walking in her shoes. At the same time, they can see themselves and the timelessness of certain teen worries.
Cons: Many of the references and events in the story will really only have meaning for Roman Catholics, and more likely their moms who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is an enjoyable story that is well written and thoughtful. It is not likely to be something you'd put in your permanent library, though.
Educational Themes: Catholic families - particularly those whose parents grew up in the 1960s and 1970s — will enjoy this coming-of-age story. This would be an excellent choice for a mother-daughter book club.
Notes: The publisher donated an advance review copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.