Unbroken by Jessie Haas; Greenwillow
Books: New York, 1999; $15
In Unbroken, Harriet Gibson becomes an orphan in 1910 when her mother dies in a horse-and-buggy accident. Now thirteen-year-old Harriet must leave her old life in a small Vermont town to live in the country with her Aunt Sarah. Having recently moved, I can understand how Harriet felt as she left her house, school, and friends. Even though I was unhappy when I moved, Harriet must have been even sadder since her mother just died.
Like Harriet, once I was settled in my new home, I wasn’t sure how to act. I had to learn how things were done in my new neighborhood and school. “Where do I hand homework in? Do I really need a hall pass just to put my flute in the band room?” I asked myself. Harriet also had to learn how to behave in her new surroundings. When she sits on the chopping block and gets blood on her dress, Harriet is uncertain what to do. “Should I just wash it off or do I have to ask permission?” Harriet wonders. Harriet realizes there’s a lot she doesn’t know about living on a farm.
Soon after Harriet moves in, she and Aunt Sarah begin to argue. Aunt Sarah insults Harriet’s mother, complains about the way Harriet does chores, and thinks Harriet will never be able to train the young colt so she can ride him. Both of them are insistent on getting their own way. My older brother reminds me of Aunt Sarah because he always believes his way is right. When he compares his grades to mine or laughs at how I play sports, I often yell at him and get into a fight like Harriet and Aunt Sarah did.
As the summer goes by, Harriet learns how to help with farm work, cope with her mother’s death, and get along with Aunt Sarah. One evening Harriet tries to get to know Aunt Sarah by asking her questions about her childhood. Harriet also helps with chores without being asked, such as when she offers to help with cutting the hay. My brother and I are working on being kind to each other, too. When I play his favorite video game with him or ask how his day went, we become closer. Most importantly, Harriet starts to accept life on the farm and think of it as home, just as I am beginning to accept my new life after moving.
When I first picked up Unbroken, I thought it was just going to be about a girl training her horse. Once I started reading, I realized the story was about a lot more—dealing with changes, getting along with other people, and discovering the importance of family. The author, Jessie Haas, made the characters seem like real people. I really enjoyed Unbroken and would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, horses, or just an excellent story.