Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Love Hannah!

I love Hannah!  Hannah Diamond that is, the protagonist of Mindy Warshaw Skolsky's lovely, overlooked books set during the Great Depression.  Unlike most books I've read set during this time, these take place not in an urban setting but in a suburb of New York, in Nyack.  I read the books out of order and, in my opinion, started with the best one.  In Love From Your Friend, Hannah, the story is told entirely in letters that Hannah writes and receives.  Her correspondents include a boy in the Midwest whose life is very different from hers, an old friend who moved away, her grandmother, and even President and Mrs. Roosevelt!  Hannah's relationship with her grandmother is especially loving and it is fun to read about Hannah's experiences living behind the diner her parents own.

Having fallen in love with this articulate heroine, I went back to read the other books.  The first two, The Whistling Teakettle and Other Stories About Hannah and Carnival and Kopeck and More About Hannah, are written more simply and are not as engaging.  Both take place before her parents buy the restaurant featured in the later books.  Welcome to the Grand View, Hannah! (also published as Hannah Is A Palindrome) and You're the Best, Hannah! (also published as Hannah and the Best Father on Route 9W) are thoroughly enjoyable.  Hannah's problems and joys are timeless.

Hannah is an only child and her independence and her ability to be alone are striking.  She climbs up a nearby mountain, where she has a special, secret place that she goes to be alone and to think.

My daughter refused to read the first book because she claimed she did not like books that were "all letters."  (This was a good opportunity to teach her the phrase "epistolary novel"!)  However, having read and loved Welcome to the Grand View, Hannah! and You're the Best, Hannah!, I'm hoping she will be persuaded to set aside that prejudice.  (Interestingly, she does not like books told in diary format either, despite their huge popularity these days.)

Some of these books are out of print and even hard to find at the library, but they are worth searching for!

Do you or your children like epistolary and/or diary novels?

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