R My Name is Rachel
Rachel has lived in the city her whole life and loves her neighborhood: Charlie the butcher, Clarence the stray cat, Mrs. Lazarus her teacher, and especially Miss Mitzi, the florist who is like a mother to Rachel and her siblings. Rachel loves school, reading, and writing letters to famous people with Miss Mitzi; the only thing Rachel dislikes is her bossy, cleanliness-obsessed sister, Cassie. When Rachel’s father loses his job at a bank (it is 1936), he decides to move his family to the country, where he believes a job awaits. The farmhouse is a wreck, and the job falls through, but with nowhere else to go, the family stays in the country where they can plant a garden and get chickens and goats. The children love the outdoors, and though the school is closed and they have no friends, they are happy in the country. But the farmhouse is rented, so when he is almost out of money, Rachel’s father must leave for work up north. Rachel, Joey, and Cassie are left to take care of the farm and themselves on their own.
Patricia Reilly Giff captures childhood in the piercingly honest voice of Rachel, especially in the way she talks to and thinks about Cassie. Their close-in-age sister relationship is complicated and realistic, filled with both oft-voiced recriminations and deep love. Giff shows how difficult life was for many during the Depression – the constant struggle for food, shelter, and the ability to take care of those you love. I thoroughly enjoyed this genuine, heartfelt story of childhood, courage, and family.