1941 Honor: Blue Willow

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5

Blue Willow by Doris Gates, the 1941 Newbery Medal Honor book, is a realistic children’s tale about a young girl in the Great Depression who faces problems fitting in after moving to a new town, the tough task of making and keeping friends, and a life of poverty. Despite all of her difficulties, she has a family that loves her, as well as her most prized possession – a Blue Willow plate that had once belonged to her great-great-grandmother. But when Janey’s stepmother falls sick, her family begins having problems keeping up with the rent, and Janey may have to give up the one thing she values most to save them.

Janey is an admirable heroine with a loyal heart. Her growing friendship with Lupe is well written, as there are a couple instances of misunderstandings in the beginning, but they end up finding common ground regardless. Janey’s adventurous inclinations lead her to a day at the county fair, learning to read at the local school, and rooting for her family in the county cotton picking contest. For children interested in learning about rural life in the early decades, this book paints a pretty enough picture of the best and worst aspects of the migrant lifestyle.

Blue Willow is an enjoyable enough read for the realistic fiction genre, especially for those interested in the Great Depression era in California.

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