Audience: 10-12 years
Review by Sarah Bihn (she/her)
MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool
When Hanna and her widowed father settle in the small town of LaForge in the Dakota Territory, Hanna is both excited and worried. Excited because after three years of traveling, they are finally in a town where they bought a store instead of renting–meaning her father intends to stay for longer than normal–and because she might be able to go to an actual school. Since leaving behind San Francisco, Hanna has not felt welcomed in any town she and her father try to settle in. However, in LaForge, the Justice of the Peace is a friend of her father’s, and there is a chance he might let her go to school with the other town children. Granted, it is a one-room school, but Hanna is determined to graduate. However, the worries of being half-Asian in 1880 and the prejudice of the town weigh down on Hanna’s aspirations.
This historical fiction, told from the point-of-view of a diverse teenager, is a poignant reminder that there is more than one perspective to history. Hanna’s voice resonates with honesty and confusion as she tries to find friends among her classmates, and make LaForge her home. Her frank assessment of the world around her, from how the Native Americans are treated to how she herself is treated, is a powerful glimpse into the history of diverse communities and individuals in America. Throughout her journey, Hanna is guided by the memory of her mother’s strength and wisdom, and comes to find that she inherited more than just her appearances from her mother. Linda Sue Park is unafraid to write about the harmful effect of stereotypes and how they impact those they are directed at. Before Hanna and her father even enter LaForge, Hanna is bracing for the questions and stares that come with looking different from everyone else. Yet Hanna is never without hope, and her determination and perseverance in turn give hope to readers of her story.