The Trouble with May Amelia

Written by Jennifer I. Holm
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

This sequel to Newbery Honor-winning Our Only May Amelia (2000) is worth the wait. The only daughter on a 1900 Washington State farm where her father proclaims “girls are useless,” May Amelia’s adventures continue at full bore. The Finnish immigrant Jackson family endures hardships that include wayward cougars and bulls, a barn burning, helping a murder-haunted cousin, and the loss of a treasured sister to death and teacher to marriage.

Through May Amelia’s first-person, present tense viewpoint, the family and community glow with wonder. Uncle Arno keeps figuring creative ways to die, Mr. Clayton woos with a pie, and brother Ivan needs a hand to bury. The Jacksons begin to dream of a better life when May Amelia’s father goes for a real estate scheme. The consequences break up the family and community. Our heroine must dig deep into the reserves of her sisu – Finnish for “guts” – to persevere, forgive, and help her family to heal.

By turns funny, warm-hearted and gothic, Babymouse author Holm has crafted a robust and unforgettable place, heroine, and story, brimming with the life of its time, while remaining timeless. Highly recommended.