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When Molly Was a Harvey Girl Hardcover – January, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Thirteen-year-old Molly Gerry and her older sister Colleen’s world is rocked when their father dies, leaving them penniless. Their best hope seems to be leaving their small Illinois town to work at a Harvey Eating House in Raton, New Mexico. Molly manages to appear 18 (the minimum Harvey Girl age) in order to get the job and soon catches on to the rhythm of life beside the railroad tracks. She continues to struggle with the desire to return home and worries about the fact that the outlaw Genius Jim is still on the loose. Inspired by the author’s great-grandmother’s experiences, this historical bildungsroman shows life out west in the late 1800s in all its flash and grittiness. Molly is a solidly drawn character, attracted more to cooking than serving and determined to be honest and fair in her work. The outlaws provide spice, and the romance Molly tries to conjure up for Colleen gives humor. The values of education, courage, and simplicity all come together in this delightful tale. Grades 6-9. --Melissa Moore

About the Author

Frances M. Wood is the author of the middle-grade novel "Becoming Rosemary, which was praised by "Kirkus Reviews as "a nearly flawless, always charming coming-of-age tale." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Kane Miller Book Pub (January 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935279513
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935279518
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,527,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on March 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When young Molly and her older sister Colleen are left penniless after their father's death, Colleen decides to answer an advertisement for the following: "Young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, eighteen to thirty, to work in Harvey Eating Houses." Although Molly's only thirteen, with her hair up and dressed to look older, she and Colleen are hired and sent from Illinois to far-off Raton, New Mexico--the ends of the earth as far as Molly is concerned, and to an area she is convinced is full of Western desperadoes with evocative names such as Rattlesnake Sam and Cockeyed Frank!

Because trains at the time didn't offer meal service, Frank Harvey had founded a chain of restaurants along the Santa Fe lines, offering good food and a hot meal at a reasonable price. The educated, respectable young women hired from all over the country were a key part of the "brand," and made waitressing into a respectable profession. Girls were paid a salary, provided with room and board, and subject to strict rules about behavior with the largely male customers, curfews, and uniforms. Most came for adventure--and to find a husband, too.

When Molly first sees the highly efficient Harvey girls at work, she's exhausted just by watching the waitress's "Herculean efforts." Molly muses that the young woman "accomplished more in a half hour than Molly had ever accomplished in a day." But soon both Molly and her sister are more than adequate as waitresses. Molly, though, still hopes to get back to Illinois, and develops a scheme to get her sister married to one of their customers, Mr. Latterly, a traveling salesman who admires her attractive sister.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Writing this review simply because I would have wanted to know this before purchasing. Would have preferred not to have the discussion about kissing in the first few pages (incl. a reference to open-mouthed kissing) in a book that I was hoping to read with mid-elementary students interested in history. Did not find that necessary. Decided to skip this one although it is a beautiful looking book about an interesting time in history.
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Format: Hardcover
Once Molly's older sister Colleen had paid off all Papa's debts, doctor's bills, and the mortician, she had less than eighteen dollars in her handbag. Having spotted a help wanted ad in the newspaper for waitresses in the Harvey Eating Houses, Colleen decided that she and Molly would both apply. After all, they needed the money, and the jobs came with room and board. They would have to lie about Molly's age though, since thirteen fell well below the cut-off specified in the ad.

The sisters both got jobs, but their placement took them by surprise: they would have to move all the way from Streator, Illinois to Raton, New Mexico in order to work as Harvey girls along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line. Molly resented leaving her old life behind, and even though she picked up the waitressing skills quickly, she devised a scheme to trick her sister into marrying a Chicago man so they could move back home. Little did Molly realize the danger in which that scheme would place the sisters and their new Harvey House friends.

Set in the late 1800s when outlaws stirred up trouble in the Wild West and the railroad provided a popular means of travel, this novel provides a fascinating glimpse of work life at a Harvey House, one of the first restaurant chains in this country. The book's substantive content has plenty of economics, with a focus on job search, training, and working conditions, all of which is expertly woven into a smart and enjoyable story.
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Format: Hardcover
Wood did a good job creating a fairly complicated and age consistent character of Molly, who is only 13. Molly's sister Colleen, age 19, and a flat character throughout this novel, requires her youngster sister to pretend to be 18 in order that they can both get employment at a Harvey House restaurant at a railroad depot stop. The girls are left to fend for themselves when their once affluent merchant father passes away, and this is a way of survival. They aren't initially aware that they will be placed so far from home. Molly especially longs for her Illinois home and friends in their New Mexico outpost. Oddly, Molly finds friendship and career opportunities as a result of her experience before her true age is found out. One concern I have with this book is that the act of a 13 year old acting 18 is on the edge of credibility. I wonder why Wood did not make Molly a bit older in the story. And as readers, we never get to know any other character with any depth. Still, I would consider this a delightful coming-of-age themed novel.
Wendy C. Kasten, Ph.D.
Kent State UniversityLiving Literature: Using Children's Literature to Support Reading and Language Arts
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