Family Tree #1: Better to Wish

By . 4 CDs. 4:34 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2013. ISBN 978-0-8041-2232-0. $30.
Gr 3–6—The first title (Scholastic, 2013) in Martin's new multigenerational series is told from the perspective of an old woman looking back at her life. As it opens, Abby Nichols is just eight years old and living in Maine. Her mother is mourning the loss of her last two babies and her father is an ambitious carpenter determined to get ahead even during the years of the Great Depression. Through the course of the book, which covers more than 10 years, Abby must deal with a host of challenges, including the extreme prejudices of her father and her mother's growing depression. As a young teenager, she faces the death of a dear friend and watches as her hate-filled father sends her mentally impaired younger brother away to live at a special "school." Told in episodic chapters, the prose is heartfelt and touching. Annalie Gernert does a lovely job of providing unique voices for Abby and the supporting characters, bringing them all to life. Her pacing is just right for the often somber nature of the tale while still capturing the light humor scattered throughout. Loran Raver also does a nice job of providing the introduction as the elderly Abby. Those looking for a contemplative piece of historical fiction will find much to enjoy in this excellent production.—Deanna Romriell, Salt Lake City Public Library, UT
The first entry in Martin’s new multigenerational family saga features Abby Nichols as a classic poor little rich girl: much better off financially in her small Depression-era Maine town than most, but coping with more than any child should have to: an oppressively overbearing father; a fragile, depressed mother; a baby brother with multiple birth defects; and much loss, including the death of her best friend. Through a series of vignettes, one or two per year, that take the protagonist from young childhood to new adulthood, listeners get to know the resilient, compassionate, thoughtful Abby as well as get a sense of life and mores in mid-twentieth-century America. Narrator Gernert gives Abby a girlish, ingenuous voice that grows in self-awareness and gravitas as the book unfolds. An engrossing listen; fans will eagerly await the next three installments of the Family Tree saga. martha v. parravano

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