From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4–7—In the voice of her sister Audrey at age 11, White has created a fictionalized memoir of her life as a child in a Virginia coal mining camp. It is 1948, and the family is living in grinding poverty with an alcoholic father and a mother who suffers periods of depression. School bullies torment Audrey, calling her Skeleton Girl (her weight "fell off" during a bout of scarlet fever), and dare her to climb the water tank at night and walk around the perimeter. Shining through the gloom are Audrey's friendship with classmate Virgil, whose cleverness averts the potential water-tank catastrophe, and the compassion of her teacher, Miss Stairus, beloved by all. Audrey's physical hunger and her longing for a better life are palpable, but it is only through tragedy that a better future emerges for the Whites. Details of setting and time are pitch perfect; spare, lyrical language combines skillfully with dialect; and humor infuses the story as the kids share jokes, including some based on the "Little Audrey" comic strip. Characters are carefully drawn and nuanced, and there is neither saccharine sentimentalism in Audrey's relationship with her younger sisters whom she calls the three little pigs, nor are her father and his enabling parents demonized. A note to readers and cover and interior photographs of Audrey and her mother and sisters make this story all the more real and compelling. A little gem.—Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Based on incidents from her own life and told in the voice of her older sister, Audrey, White offers a heartfelt story of what it’s like to be poor, hungry, and sometimes happy. It’s 1948, and Audrey lives in a Virginia coal-mining camp with her father, who drinks; her mother, who drifts away, if not physically, emotionally; and her sisters, “the three little pigs.” Eleven-year-old Audrey has her own troubles. Illness has left her eyesight compromised, and she is so thin kids call her Skeleton Girl. Yet it’s her family’s troubles that weigh on her most. Will her father’s need for drink rob them of the money they need for food? Will her mother’s sadness about the death of baby Betty Gail pull her even further away from the family that’s left? This is a small book, both in size and in the scope of its story. Yet it is fierce in its honesty while remaining utterly childlike. The first-person narrative allows readers to see clearly, through Audrey’s damaged eyes, the real people who inhabit this world, a place where smiles come from a movie or a piece of candy, and how hunger or the fear of it taints everything. A tough, tender story. Grades 5-8. --Ilene Cooper