________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 14. . . . March 14, 2003

cover Roses for Mama. (Janette Oke Classics for Girls).

Janette Oke. Adapted by Natasha Sperling.
Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House (Distributed in Canada by Cook Communications Ministries Canada, 55 Woodslee Avenue, P.O. Box 98 Paris, Ontario N3L 3E5), 1991/2002.
175 pp., cloth, $16.99
ISBN 0-7642-2709-2.

Subject Headings:
Women pioneers-Fiction.
Brothers and sisters-Fiction.
Orphans-Fiction.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Linda Ludke.

** /4

excerpt:

Angela bent over the tub again and scrubbed the soiled socks with renewed vigor. She wanted to finish before stopping to put dinner on the table, and this was her last load.

"I hate washing socks," she fretted, then quickly bit her tongue as she recalled a soft voice: "Remember, never despise a task - any task. In doing any job you are either creating something or bettering something."

Mama had always said things like that.

 

cover A Gown of Spanish Lace. (Janette Oke Classics for Girls).

Janette Oke. Adapted by Natasha Sperling.
Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House (Distributed in Canada by Cook Communications Ministries Canada, 55 Woodslee Avenue, P.O. Box 98 Paris, Ontario N3L 3E5), 1992/2002.
176 pp., cloth, $16.99
ISBN 0-7642-2711-4.

Subject Headings:
Women pioneers-Fiction.
West (U.S.)-Fiction.
Teachers-Fiction.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*1/2 /4

excerpt:

"Git yer coat, miss." The order was growled more loudly from the gravelly voice. Ariana froze to the spot.

"I think ya better do as told, miss," advised the smaller man. "It'll be easier on ya iffen ya cooperate."

"But I .... I can't go with you. My family is expecting me - "

"Then yer family will jest have to wait a spell," said the big man. Ariana saw the end of a pistol peeking out from the furry sleeve of his heavy coat.

Ariana stiffened and pulled herself to her full height. She took a deep breath and told herself to hold steady. Not to panic. But at the same moment her whole body trembled. She was afraid she was going to faint.

She closed her eyes and grasped her desk with both hands. Trust in the Lord, she managed inwardly. That was as far as she got with her prayer.

 

cover Heart of the Wilderness. (Janette Oke Classics for Girls).

Janette Oke. Adapted by Natasha Sperling.
Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House (Distributed in Canada by Cook Communications Ministries Canada, 55 Woodslee Avenue, P.O. Box 98 Paris, Ontario N3L 3E5), 1993/2002.
176 pp., cloth, $16.99
ISBN 0-7642-2710-6.

Subject Headings:
Orphans-Fiction.
Grandfathers-Fiction.
Christian life-Fiction.

Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.

Review by Linda Ludke.

** /4

excerpt:

Almost daily Nonie and Kendra took treks through the woods. Patiently Nonie taught the young child to recognize the plants that were useful and would be placed in the gathering basket. Over and over the lessons were repeated until Kendra began to understand just what it was she was looking for.

"She's a bright little thing," her Papa Mac informed Nonie, and Nonie nodded her agreement.

Roses for Mama, A Gown of Spanish Lace and Heart of the Wilderness are all titles in Janette Oke's popular "Women of the West" series. They have been adapted by Natasha Sperling and repackaged in a new "Classics for Girls" series. Oke is often called the grandmother of Christian fiction, and all three titles have direct religious messages and themes.

     In Roses for Mama, 17-year-old Angela Peterson takes on the responsibility of caring for her younger brother and sisters after the death of their parents. The hardships of pioneer life are explored as she struggles to provide them with food and clothing. She relies on her faith and the memory of her mother to guide her. To help her siblings deal with their grief, Angela creates a Memory Book. There are some emotional passages where each of the family members shares a recollection of their parents.

     Angela is courted by the wealthy Carter Stratton and is hopeful she will now have someone to help care for the family. Angela tries to ignore the fact that Carter doesn't share her same standards or faith. When Carter tries to cheat her longtime friend out of his rightful inheritance, she "longed to discuss the situation with Carter, but didn't feel the freedom to bring up such a sensitive issue." Angela finds out, almost too late, that Carter has no intentions of raising her young brother and sisters. She eventually speaks her mind and calls off their wedding. The novel ends happily, with Angela marrying the responsible, hardworking Thane Andrews instead.

     A Gown of Spanish Lace features Ariana Benson, a 16-year-old schoolteacher who is suddenly kidnapped by a band of outlaws. Even though she is imprisoned in a cabin, with only her Bible for comfort, she never loses her decorum or politeness. Laramie, the son of the head outlaw, is given the job of guarding her, and in the course of this far-fetched tale, he falls in love with her and decides to help her escape. With Ariana's help, Laramie renounces his evil upbringing, converts to Christianity, and they plan to marry. In an odd plot twist, they fear they might be brother and sister, but the problem is quickly resolved and they wed at the end.

     The heavy handed use of dialect, such as "Jest a yella-bellied coward," was very distracting. Many questions were left unaswered, such as why did Ariana fall in love with her captor. There was little character development, and readers never get a glimpse into Ariana's inner thoughts. She was a very compliant hostage who never complained, even chastising herself for worrying about her situation, instead of "thanking God for each day of safety."

     In Heart of the Wilderness, Kendra Marty is orphaned at a young age and goes to live with her trapper grandfather. Papa Mac and his native friend, Nonie, teach Kendra how to survive in the wilderness, and she grows up to be self-reliant and strong. She is content to live in the woods until she turns fourteen. Yearning to understand more about the world, she attends university in Edmonton. There, she befriends Amy, who introduces her to the Bible and, she learns how to become "civilized." She returns home to share the teachings with her grandfather and Nonie. In the last two chapters, Kendra quickly falls in love with Amy's brother, and the novel ends, like the others, with a wedding.

     In all three novels the female characters are unbelievably wholesome - Angela is even described as being "the most sincerely selfless little creature." There is little humor to be found in these stories. The plots are predictable, and conflicts are resolved quickly and neatly at the end. Passages from the Bible fill the character's prayers and are printed in italics. The tone is very earnest and didactic.

     While these are not literary novels, they do accomplish what the author intended - to provide a "gentle read" with biblical instruction.

Recommended with reservations.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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