Title: Raspberries on the Yangtze
Author: Karen Wallace
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 160
Nancy is an inquisitive little girl living in 1950’s-era rural Canada with her parents, her brother Andrew, and a vast array of animals. She’s curious about the problems occurring the snobbish family next door, and soon gets pulled into their drama despite her dislike of the spoiled younger daughter, Sandra.
Nancy, Andrew, and their friends Amy and Clare have free-range upbringings and they spend most of their days playing and exploring outdoors. The majority of this quiet, slow-paced story follows the common theme of Nancy discovering about adult secrets and intentions and becoming a little more grown-up in the process.
I liked reading about the freedom the four kids got to experience and the sense of atmosphere the author created with this small, cloistered community. However, I never really connected to the main characters or even felt like I particularly knew them and the book itself was slow-paced to the point of being boring.
The kids got so embroiled in drama that didn’t seem like it would be of that much interest to them. One of the neighbors is pregnant and eloping with her boyfriend! Clare and Amy’s (unmarried) mother was seen at a motel with a neighbor! Who cares? They’re kids. It’s pretty implausible that Nancy would get so emotional over these things.
I mean, when I was a kid I’d get pretty curious when my parents would have private conversations about people they knew (largely because these conversations were deemed ‘inappropriate for young ears’ i.e., me) but I never got myself all worked up about adults breaking up and getting together. This book had some good aspects but overall it seemed like there wasn’t much going on. It’s a slice of life that feels bland and aimless, and there are a lot of much better coming-of-age stories out there.