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Elsie Mae Has Something to Say Hardcover – September 5, 2017
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"Cavanagh's sweet and engaging historical fiction style perfectly captures the special quality of life in the Okefenokee, from 'gators to biscuits to good neighbors. Elsie Mae is a strong, complicated heroine, surrounded by complex characters. The novel also does a good job highlighting the complications of federal conservation for those who live in and use a wild place." - School Library Journal
"The period details, unusual setting, light dialect, well developed characters, and the affirming, gradual progression of Elsie Mae and Henry James' friendship makes for an engrossing story. An author's note offers more insight into the real story of FDR's protection of the swamp." - Booklist
"Cavanaugh weaves an engaging story with characters you immediately fall in love with. The text offers a poignant window into the customs and lifestyle of the swampers who lived there in the 1930s. Written with humor and sensitivity and reflecting the vernacular of the time, this book would be a great intro to a lesson on the National Wildlife Refuge system, conservation, and preservation.
" - School Library Connection
"Our spunky protagonist takes the reader on countless high-energy adventures through the marsh and eventually learns that there are more important matters than heroism. Set in 1933, this piece of historical fiction gives a perspective of life on the Okefenokee, and the author's note provides context for the real-life events like President Roosevelt's Executive Order that lead to its National Wildlife Refuge status." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Gators, huckleberry pie, and sweet tea on the porch are all part of the swamper way of life. Elsie Mae is spunky, headstrong, and kind... Swamp magic." - Kirkus
About the Author
Nancy J. Cavanaugh has a BS in education and an MA in curriculum and instruction with multiple published works. She was a teacher for more than fifteen years and currently works as a Library Media Specialist at an elementary school. Nancy lives in Tarpon Springs, FL with her husband and daughter. Visit www.nancyjcavanaugh.com
Top customer reviews
This book takes us back to the 1930s, and we are immediately introduced to Elsie Mae, a young girl living near the Okefenokee Swamp. The swamp is very dear to her heart; not only do her grandparents and uncles live there, but Elsie has spent the last several summers with her grandparents. As the story begins, Elsie Mae is mailing a letter to the White House because she has heard about a canal project that would cut right through her beloved swamp. Elsie Mae is determined to do something about this, and fervently hopes that her letter will reach President Roosevelt’s desk.
The summer starts out well enough- Elsie’s Uncle Owen presents her with a dog, something she has always wanted. Elsie is looking forward to spending the summer becoming acquainted with the dog, but she faces two obstacles: the arrival of her cousin Henry James (who wants to be a preacher when he grows up) and the news that there are no good hog bandits on the loose in the Okefenokee.
Elsie Mae sees a new opportunity; if she can catch the hog bandits, then that might attract enough attention to stop the canal from being built. She will not be alone in her efforts- she’ll have her trusty dog Huck to help, and Henry James might prove useful as well- as long as he can stop preaching and shouting Hallelujah for a minute to listen to her.
I read this book with my three girls who are ten, eight, and eight. They looked forward to reading every night, and laughed at the funny parts and gasped with shock at the surprises. They especially enjoyed Henry’s tendency to say, “Lord have mercy!”
As a parent, I appreciated the lessons conveyed in this book about what it means to be a hero and the motivations of our actions. At first, Elsie Mae is annoyed by Henry James’s warnings about being prideful and that “pride goeth before the fall”, but she reluctantly sees his point. On that note, it’s wonderful that Elsie Mae also learns acceptance; at first she is annoyed by her cousin, but she learns to value him for who he is, and she encourages him to pursue his own goals.
I would absolutely recommend Elsie Mae Has Something to Say to middle grade readers. Elsie is very much a real child- she doesn’t always do what she is supposed to, and Henry is a nice foil for her- the voice of reason, so to speak. This is an adventure story, and there is also an element of mystery as well. As an adult reader, I noticed some clues fairly early, but my girls didn’t figure it out until some of the more obvious clues.
I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I purchased our own copy of this book as well as the audio companion because I know it’s going to be a family favorite!