Polly Horvath won the National Book Award for The Canning Season. Her book, Everything on a Waffle was a Newbery Honor Book, and, it's quite possible that her latest book, My One Hundred Adventures, might be another nominee for a Newbery. It's a lyrical, lazy book encompassing one summer, and an entire lifetime of emotions.
Jane Fielding tells the story of her twelfth summer, beginning with, "All summers take me back to the sea." She's the oldest daughter in what some would see as an exotic family. She and her sister and two brothers live with their mother, Felicity, a Pulitzer prize-winning poet, in a beach house. And, they're the only ones to live year-round on the beach. It's a quiet life of appreciating nature, dining on berries and rice, canning jam, and walking the beach. At twelve, though, Jane is restless, ready to break away, and have adventures. She felt, "A sharp stab of something, excitement maybe. It is the prospect of adventures to be had."
Jane's adventures are a little odd, just as her lifestyle is. She delivers Bibles with her preacher, and ends up in a hot air balloon. That adventure changes her entire summer. The strange man who appears, eats dinner with the family, and takes them to the fair, haunts her thoughts, and changes her image of her mother. Her mother is a self-absorbed poet, who never questions Jane's adventures, and her absence during the summer.
Horvath's book is pure magic. The author doesn't need to point out the difference between the Fieldings and the family Jane babysits for. It's evident that the more "exotic" family is a strong, loving family. Jane's adventures seem a little odd, but, she's just reaching the age of self-exploration and discovery in which all of life is an adventure. She's just starting to question authority, while she looks for something to believe in. My One Hundred Adventures is the perfect book for the quiet twelve or thirteen-year-old female who longs for safe adventures, close to home.
And, what librarian can resist the description of the library? "The library in summer is the most wonderful thing because there you get books on any subject and read them each for only as long as they hold your interest, abandoning any that don't, halfway or a quarter of the way through if you like, and store up all that knowledge in the happy corners of your mind for your own self and not to show off how much you know or spit it back at your teacher on a test paper."
My One Hundred Adventures is a quiet trip into the lyrical description of the summer in one girl's life. It may be a juvenile novel, but it's a novel for the heart.
Polly Horvath's website is www.pollyhorvath.com
My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath. Schwartz & Wade Books, ©2008. ISBN 9780375845826 (hardcover), 260p.