This year’s Scott O’Dell winner for historical fiction is the charming and fresh Bo at Ballard Creek. Bo’s mother, Mean Millie, wants to send her to an orphanage. But the nuns look so cross that miners Jack and Arvid take the little girl instead, raising her in the cold rough wonderful world of a small Alaska mining village. Her friends are of all ages — from little Evaline to old Ollie — and from everywhere. Some are good at morse code, some at making akutaq, some at baking cakes. At Ballard Creek, everyone is valued and respected. The village is small but Bo’s world is large.
I will confess to putting the book down for a day: it was a bit too sweet and too good-to-be-true in spots and I do wish there had been a way for the author to stay completely in Bo’s point of view. But after that day, I picked the book up again because I missed Bo and her papas too much. And the illustrations by LeUyen Pham are utterly exuberant!
This book reminds me of some of my own favorites: Susan and Arabella, Pioneers (Rhoda Morris), Our Only May Amelia (Jennifer Holm), The Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall), with a dash of Anne of Green Gables (L.M.M. Montgomery) thrown in for good measure. It seems like the perfect choice for a mother-daughter book club, or for anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to be chased by a grizzly.