Cabby Potts: Duchess of Dirt

Written by Kathleen Wilford
Review by Shauna McIntyre

Money has always been tight for 12-year-old Cabby Potts and her family, but she thought they had finally found a forever home on the Kansas prairie. That was before the grasshoppers and drought ruined their crops. Now, her parents have found her a job earning two dollars a week as a live-in maid at a big manor house. Cabby doesn’t want to go, but her family is depending on her. She might not be the quiet, clean, cheerful girl Lady Ashford wants in her house, but that doesn’t stop her from trying.

That is, until she notices Nigel Ashford take an interest in her sister, Emmeline, and Cabby decides to play matchmaker. She figures if she can get Nigel to marry her sister, it would solve her family’s financial trouble and she would be free to return to her beloved farm. Cabby learns the hard way that things are not always what they seem. As she befriends the other servants in the house, she learns the importance of friendship. Her courage and determination are put to the test when the whole town is threatened first by a land grab and then wildfire. Then she must decide what is most important.

The story deftly weaves in the history of prairie homesteaders in the 1870s, the Kiowa and other displaced people, and the role of British aristocrats in the American West. Wilford manages heavy topics with a light and engaging touch that had my 10-year-old and me enthralled. An adventurous and history-packed story perfect for middle-grade readers.