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In 1878, twelve-year-old Ida Kate and her widowed father welcome a mail-order bride and her baby to their Kansas homestead, but Ida Kate soon suspects that the bride is not the woman with whom Papa has corresponded. Simultaneous.
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Grade 3-6-It's a joyous occasion when a mail-order bride arrives for Ida Kate's Papa, but an uneasy feeling descends when Caroline Fairchild has the wrong color hair and is shorter than expected. With the encouragement of a friend, the child finds increasing evidence that the bride is not who she claims to be. Clues pile up and in the midst of a spring blizzard with her father on a trip to town, the 12-year-old has to decide whether her family is in danger and what to do about it. This is a simple mystery with little suspense since it is obvious from the first that "Caroline" is kind, witty, and capable. The details of life on the Kansas prairie in 1878 help to ground the story, but the blandness of the characters and clear outcome from the beginning leave little to capture readers' interest. This series entry is not successful as history or mystery. Frances Arrington's Bluestem (Philomel, 2000) provides a more vivid picture of prairie life and Joan Lowery Nixon's In the Face of Danger (Bantam, 1996) has a stronger sense of suspense. However, fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy another safe journey to the sanitized past, where fathers know best, women never lose patience, and the children are above average.
Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 5-7. Ida Kate is excited by the arrival her father's mail-order bride. If everything works out, Ida Kate can be relieved of the many chores she's had to take on since her mother's death. When Caroline Fairchild arrives she's good tempered, a good cook, and a good mother to her own little son. But then Ida Kate notices some odd things. Where is the auburn hair Caroline's letters mentioned? Why is she not tall or allergic to the family's cat? After some snooping, the girl realizes that the woman is an imposter. Could she be a murderess, too? Answers come in a turbulent finish during which Ida Kate braves a prairie blizzard to save Mrs. Fairchild and finally learns the truth about this newcomer. The story is formulaic but engrossing. Readers will enjoy the mystery aspect as they are immersed in an era when strength and hard work were necessities for survival. An afterward discusses the historical context of the story, making this addition to the History Mysteries series especially useful where curriculums call for literature tie-ins to history topics. Denise Wilms
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Book Description Amer Girl Pub, 2001. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1584853093