The Marble Queen
Dolls and tea parties bore Freedom Jane McKenzie, age 10. She would rather be the 1959 Marble Queen of Idaho Falls, but her ambition gets thwarted at every turn. Her mother tells her that marbles is a boys’ game, and after Freedom accidentally swallows a marble (resulting in a rush to the doctor and a nasty dose of castor oil), she forbids her to play with them anymore. Freedom can’t hang out with her best friend Daniel, either, because his mother tells him he’s too old to play with girls. And the boys playing marbles in the park say “No girls allowed.” Yet her rather shiftless, alcoholic father supports her marble ambitions. How will the too-impulsive Freedom rise above the roadblocks between her and her goal?
While the story is set in Idaho Falls, it’s not location-dependent and could take place in any small-town-USA of the period. I liked Blake’s characters, all of whom have flaws while still remaining likeable. Nobody is all bad or all good. Her parents have relationship problems yet still love each other, and her pregnant and worried mother says “no” a lot, but still makes Freedom feel loved and cared for. Young readers may be inspired to put down the video games and try playing marbles to win their own cat’s-eye or blue taw. This book provides a lovely escape into 1950s America, with characters readers can root for. Enthusiastically recommended.