I really enjoy the versatility of Patricia Reilly Giff as an author. It is delightful to be able to show students an author like her who has written so many types of books.
R My Name is Rachel is a historical fiction piece set in the Great Depression era, specifically 1936. We see these times through the eyes of Rachel, a 13 year old. Her mother died when Rachel was young, and her dad has hit some difficult financial times, along with the rest of the country. In an effort to find a job, he packs up his family and some of their possessions into a truck and heads off to upstate New York. He has heard of a job that may be available in North Lake, and there is a farm there they can rent.
This move saddens Rachel for so many reasons. Leaving the only home she's ever known, leaving the school and the teacher who mean so much to her, leaving her best friend, leaving her neighbors, and leaving a solid adult friend, Miss Mitzi. These are all tough things, but set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, they are small concerns against the reality of survival.
And once they get to North Lake, this book is a gritty story about survival. Rachel and her two younger siblings, Joey and Cassie, are called upon to do far more than they or the reader would expect. What they are asked to do and need to do would make for great conversations with students. Would they be able to do this? What are the survival skills they do have? Do parents sometimes make decisions that are hard for their children? So many more questions as well. I envision some deep and animated conversations.
And if I didn't already like this book for so many other reasons, I would have to add these as well:
- Rachel is an avid reader. It is her escape from reality at times, but it can also be a key to life solutions at other times.
- Rachel is a writer. She writes many letters to her father and Miss Mitzi throughout the story.
- There are not just one, but TWO teachers in this book I would like to nominate for A Year of Reading's 100 Cool Teacher's in Children's Literature!!! Mrs. Lazarus and Mrs. Collins are teachers who truly support putting books in children's hands!
- I love the character of Miss Mitzi. I love her positive attitude, I love her kindness, I love her relationship with Rachel, and that's all I can tell without ruining the story.