Our Only May Amelia

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2001

By Jennifer Holm, Reviewed by Kevin Zhou

Our Only May Amelia book cover

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm; HarperCollins
Books: New York, 1999; $15.95

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re the only girl on the Nasel River in the state of Washington, you have seven brothers to deal with, you have a very mean grandmother, and on top of everything, your birthday wish which seems to go right, is instead hindered. That is the exact same scenario that May Amelia Jackson deals with. But she’s not your ordinary everyday girl. She loves to go on exciting adventures in the woods and in town with her favorite brother Wilbert, but sometimes these adventures could lead to disasters.

May Amelia Jackson is sometimes called a “no-good girl” by her father. That is because she is always getting into mischief. She has six-and-a-half brothers, the half being Kaarlo, her cousin, who was given to her parents when Kaarlo was only ten years old.

When I started to read the book, I felt sorry for May Amelia because she was the only girl in a town, and I thought that she would be very lonesome, for there was no other girl to play with her. Then, as I read further into the book, I learned that she would always play with her brother Wilbert because they both liked to go exploring. I didn’t really like her cousin Kaarlo because he was always teasing her and Wilbert. One time, when May Amelia accidentally let go of a board Kaarlo was fixing, the push of the board sent Kaarlo flying into the muck that the pigs played in. May Amelia tried to say it was an accident, but Kaarlo didn’t listen to her. He picked her up and intentionally threw her into the muck. He gave a snicker and walked away. I felt happy when Wilbert came over and helped May Amelia out and then he told Kaarlo never to do it again. Kaarlo just shrugged his shoulders and went inside to get cleaned off.

One part of the book made me literally sit on the edge of my seat because it was so exciting. When Lonny Petersen, their next-door neighbor, asked May Amelia, Kaarlo, and Wilbert if they wanted to go collect cranberries at his Cousin Thymei’s bogs, they all agreed and started on their journey. As they moved ahead, the fog began to kick in. It was so thick that they couldn’t even see their own hands in front of them! Luckily, Lonny said that he knew the way and he would lead everybody. As they approached a big old bridge, Lonny told them to be careful because the bridge might collapse any minute. Suddenly Lonny stopped. He asked the three if they heard a baby crying. Lonny was known to hear things, but this time, everybody heard it. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge cougar jumped out. They all started running until they got to the other side of the bridge. The bridge all of a sudden gave in and the cougar fell into the river. Before it went down, it gave a roar that startled everyone. I was very glad that none of them had been hurt by the attack.

The saddest part in the story was when May Amelia’s mother was having a baby. May Amelia had always wished that the baby would be a girl, so she could have a girl to talk to and not always a boy. Then, after the baby came out, it turned out to be a girl. May Amelia was so excited. She then decided to name the baby Amy Alice Jackson, since “Amy” was MAY scrambled up and “Alice” after one of her aunts. Her mother immediately became ill after the childbirth so May had to take care of her. She fed Amy and made sure that she slept well. Then, on Christmas Eve, May noticed that baby Amy had not cried all night. She put her ear to Amy’s chest and did not hear anything. She screamed so loud that everyone rushed up. They asked what had happened and she cried that the baby was dead.

Baby Amy was buried on Smith Island, which is an island in the middle of the Nasel. At the funeral, evil Grandmother Patience said that if only the baby had been in the care of her real mother and not in the care of that wicked child, then she still might be alive. At that very statement, May Amelia ran as hard as she could until she got to Astoria, where she went to her Uncle Henry and Aunt Feenie’s house. She stayed there a couple of weeks until she went back home.

Our Only May Amelia is a very good book, with sadness, excitement, adventure, and even a little bit of comedy. After I read this book, I got to thinking. What if I was the only one of my gender in a whole town? Would I have handled the situation as smoothly as May Amelia did? I honestly think that I couldn’t have lived through it. I would want to immediately move away from there. I admire how May Amelia took the best of things and did a lot of stuff her own way. Even when everyone in her family wanted her to be a “proper young lady,” she continued to go on adventures with her brother Wilbert. You should read the book to learn more about May Amelia’s many adventures.

Our Only May Amelia Kevin Zhou

Kevin Zhou, 11
Danville, California

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