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Reviewed in the United States on November 24, 2014
George Ella Lyon's “Borrowed Children,” is the story of twelve year old Mandy who is suddenly thrust into adult responsibilities when her mother nearly dies after giving birth to her youngest child, baby brother Willie The story is set in the Depression era, so you know the family is struggling. Baby Willie makes the sixth mouth to feed.
Mandy, who’s been looking after her two younger sisters all their lives, is familiar with hard work and responsibility. What changes with Willie’s birth is that her strong and hard working mother is too weak to manage the household. The family needs Mandy to leave school to step in and care for her younger siblings and her mother for six weeks until her mother is strong enough to resume her home management duties. Until then, Mandy will be doing all the cooking, cleaning, and washing, and for the family, plus minding baby Willie and taking care of her mother. Her two older brothers are busy working off a debt they incurred, so they're no help. Their father works away from home a week at a time. It’s a tough life for all of them, but especially for Mandy, who loves school and has to leave it.
This story is about family bonds, self-sacrifice, hard work, and hard choices that must be made in hard times. Mandy manages everything pretty well for a twelve year old. She’s able to keep the family together and get most everything done. She develops a strong “motherly” bond with baby Willie. When her mother is well and strong enough to take over again, there’s a pang when Mandy hands Willie over to their mother. Bittersweet. She’ll get to go back to school, and even has a nicer compensation—a trip to the big city of Memphis to visit her grandparents and her Aunt Laura.
Mandy takes a long train ride by herself, and is a welcomed guest at her grandparents’ home. She has new clothes for the first time. She eats out in a restaurant. It seems a glamorous life on the surface. Looking deeper Mandy finds that all isn’t as wonderful as it seems. Her Aunt Laura has some heavy problems. The death of an uncle at an early age strongly affected everyone in the family. Mandy learns more about her mother’s family than she knew and not all of it good. She returns home a much wiser twelve year old with a better understanding of the hard choices folks have made and which she may have to make in her future.
This story is recommended for middle school readers, especially those with less than perfect families and family life—which is most of us. I saw some things that reminded me of my family, our lives, and the choices we’ve made over the years. The sooner tweens and teens learn that life isn’t easy, that it takes grit and hard work to make it, and that things aren’t always what they seem like on the surface, the better off they’ll be.
Twelve-year-old Amanda Perritt has her hands full when her mother nearly dies in childbirth and she must take over the running of the household. Although Mandy is used to doing some hard manual labor to cook and clean, as well as take care of her siblings, it's entirely different when Mama is bedridden and everything is on Mandy's shoulders.
To make matters worse, Mandy has to leave school! Although her parents are sorry, knowing she's their one child who is most hurt by it, they feel there is no other option.
Although Mandy loves baby Willie, she's quickly overwhelmed by all her responsibilities. In an effort to reward her, the Perritts send her to Memphis for a week once Mama is stronger. Mandy is to visit with her grandparents, aunt and uncle. Needless to say, she is thrilled.
Once in Memphis, however, Mandy begins to uncover some long-buried truths about her parents and Aunt Laura, who is beautiful and sophisticated, but clearly quite troubled.
As in most coming of age stories, Amanda quickly learns that most people and things have hidden depths, not just herself.
This book will touch your heart in heart-wrenching ways and you will smile at other turns of events. It is well written with an amazing understanding of the dialect and lives of mountain folk. A worthy read.
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2004
I believe the book the Borrowed Children by Geogre Ella Lyon was interesting to read because it was a book to read that will help you make a choice between family, and school. And also the cause and the effect behind your decision. The set was belivable, and you could tell if you just look at it. Mandy is trying to express herself, and trying to go back to school. Yes it made sense. Because Mandy stop going to school to help family, out because her mother nearly died giving birth to William(her brother). Mandy is a good way of getting a teen to think about what will be the cause and the effect of their choice. I think that any body between the ages of 7 and up could read this book.