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Children's LiteratureWiley successfully captures the hubbub and daily rhythm of early 19th century life in this fourth title of the "Charlotte Years" series, the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother. Charlotte, age eleven, and her older sister are allowed to attend a school for young ladies in Boston and at their home in Roxbury a new baby brother delights everyone. But there is trouble in the community. In an unprecedented act of vandalism the church bible is slashed. And the new dam under construction between Roxbury and Boston turns Back Bay into a pool of sewage and rotting fish. Charlotte is an appealing character, curious about the mysterious behavior of grownups around her. Strong, charismatic Mama responds to Charlotte's perceptive questions and confides the losses in her own life and the secret grief of the person who destroyed the bible. Charlotte matures as she learns of the dark pain that may lead to erratic acts. A tragedy in the family immobilizes Charlotte for a time, but she learns that putting a wall around pain keeps out the love as well. A joyful reunion with a long-lost relative and the move to a new home in Boston renew the family's optimism. As in Wilder's "Little House" books, the vitality of the pioneer spirit throbs through this industrious, close-knit family striving to eat what they are served in life and shake off despair and misfortune. Challenging vocabulary and vivid descriptions add to the appeal of this slice of Boston history. 2004, HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12.