Brief Description: 13 yo girl overcomes neglect and jealousy of her pampered twin sister
Historical Era: 20th Century
Date Range: 1940s
Original Publication: 1980
Suitable for Grades: 7th and up
Target Audience: Middle Grade, Teen
While not technically historical fiction, the author beautifully evokes a specific place and time in this coming-of-age novel for middle grade readers that will also appeal to adults. Set against the backdrop of World War II, thirteen-year-old Sarah Louise Bradshaw is a tomboy on fictional Rass Island (Smith Island may be the real life model), a small island reachable only by ferry from Crisfield, MD and sparsely populated mainly by crab fisherman. She lives with her mother, grandmother and twin sister, while her father, a crabber, is often away for days at a time on his boat.
Louise has several chips on her shoulder: She chafes at the traditional female role she is expected to take and would rather spend her days crabbing with her best friend, earning a little extra spending change she shares with her impoverished family. Her father will not let her accompany him on his boat. But her biggest problem arises not from her sweet-tempered sister, but her own feelings of jealousy at the attention that the talented and beautiful Caroline receives from just about everybody. In fact, so favored is Caroline, that their (crazy mean) grandmother goads Louise by whispering, “Jacob have I loved ….”, the biblical quote about twin brothers which ends “……. but Esau have I hated.”
It’s tough circumstances for Louise, but she overcomes the obstacles and finally moves off the island to make her own way.