A unique and strong-willed girl named Donut is the star of my newest scout, A Stitch in Time, set in the 1930’s and written by Daphne Kalmar. Donut’s name is as unusual as her life. Her mom passes when Donut is just a baby, she spends her time hanging out with Sam, a taxidermist, learning to stuff birds and mice that she finds in the woods of Vermont and Tiny, her sweet, “not-so-tiny” friend. Her father is a dreamer and that suits Donut just fine. But when he suddenly dies, Donut’s Aunt Agatha arrives from Boston to care for her. Not only does she serve oatmeal for breakfast and turnips at supper, both of which are on Donut’s “don’t-care-for-list”, but she plans to uproot Donut and take her back to the big city to live with her and Aunt Jo. Donut, still grieving for her dad, wants no part of that arrangement, so devises schemes of her own. When those fail, she concocts an ill-thought-out plan to run away and stay in a friend’s cabin. Donut must cross a lake, keep warm, and deal with the woods at night. Nonetheless, fueled by her anger at everyone, from Sam for not successfully helping her stay, to her aunt, to Tiny, who can’t keep a secret, to, ultimately, her father for leaving her, she stays for days aware of the worry and fear she is causing everyone. A blazing fire brings the story high drama and propels Donut to make decisions and realizations about her life, future and the people in it.
Kalmar brings Donut’s experiences in the woods to life with depth of description that will draw in readers. I recommend this book for the older end of intermediate chapter book readers, grades 4 or 5 through 6. Some of the language of the time may need explaining, although it is entertaining, “the cabin was as dull as ditchwater.” But more so, there are references to smoking a pipe, drinking and a sprinkling of words such as damn and, at one point, Donut talks about how swearing makes her feel better. Emphasizing that it’s a work of FICTION, may be in order for impressionable partakers.
Written by Daphne Kalmar
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