I Am Lavina Cumming: A Novel of the American West

Overview


Lavina Cumming has spent her entire first ten years of life on the Bosque Ranch in Arizona Territory with her mother and father, five brothers, and her black mustang pony, Chummy. When her mother dies, her father decides it would be best if Lavina went to live with her aunt, where she can be brought up as a lady.
Starting off at dawn on September 16, 1905, Lavina travels by train to Santa Cruz, California. Armed with the Cumming family motto—"courage"—she arrives in a world of ...
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Overview


Lavina Cumming has spent her entire first ten years of life on the Bosque Ranch in Arizona Territory with her mother and father, five brothers, and her black mustang pony, Chummy. When her mother dies, her father decides it would be best if Lavina went to live with her aunt, where she can be brought up as a lady.
Starting off at dawn on September 16, 1905, Lavina travels by train to Santa Cruz, California. Armed with the Cumming family motto—"courage"—she arrives in a world of two-storey houses, automobiles, a new school, and her cousin, "awful Aggie." Trying her best to settle in, Lavina is torn by her hopes to return to Arizona and be with her father. She is as shocked as everyone else by the great earthquake that nearly demolishes the nearby city of San Francisco. In the aftermath of the quake, she must make a big decision about her future. Based on the true story of the author's grandmother, the book includes a short afterword by the author.

While staying with relatives in California after the death of her mother, ten-year-old Lavina sees the arrival of the automobile and experiences the great San Francisco earthquake.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This ambitious first title in the Milkweed for Young Readers line introduces Lavina Cumming of the Bosque Ranch, Arizona Territory. At the turn of the century, the 10-year-old heroine must, at her father's insistence, leave her motherless home to travel alone to her aunt in Santa Cruz, Calif., where she will learn to become a lady. Although she misses her family and the wild freedom of their ranch, Lavina gradually comes to value the new experiences afforded by her aunt's household--even though that household includes ``awful Aggie,'' a self- proclaimed precocious fourth grader. Lavina is both likable and believable, her credibility enhanced by the author's skillful use of period details, and her story is ripe with dramatic opportunities. Lowell ( The Three Little Javelinas ) weaves in tales passed down through Lavina's family, but these remain tangential, sometimes detracting from the main focus. Lavina learns that her father was married to someone else before meeting her mother, and although it rattles Lavina's trust in her father, the issue is dropped. Aside from these troubles, Lowell's work is hardy, graceful and certainly authentic: the real-life Lavina Cumming, whose journals, letters and diaries provided the story's foundation, is Lowell's grandmother. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-In 1905, 10-year-old Lavina's widowed father sends the girl to make her way from their home in the Arizona mountains to his sister in California to be educated and to learn to be a lady. Strong-willed Aunt Agnes; her wispy daughter, Maude; and Maude's spoiled daughter are much different from Lavina's five wild brothers, and the Mission School and formal dinners are far different from the outdoor, free life she left behind. Lowell presents both lives with respect; as Lavina adapts to new experiences, she shares stories about speaking Spanish at home and riding a horse to school. In fact, her camping skills come in handy after the San Francisco earthquake drives the household out into the street. Lowell's book is based on stories her grandmother told; this along with evident careful research give it a vivid sense of time and place. The strong characters develop believably towards the satisfyingly circular ending: Lavina returns to Arizona for the summer, alone again, but now with a dream for the future and two beloved homes instead of one.-Sally Bates Goodroe, Houston Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571316554
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Series: Historical Fiction for Young Readers Series
  • Pages: 198
  • Sales rank: 1,017,378
  • Age range: 8 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Susan Lowell's family has lived in the American West since Gold Rush days. She is the author of several picture books for children, including The Three Little Javelinas, a Reading Rainbow Book, The Bookmaker and the Elves, winner of a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, and Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella, also winner of a Spur Award. Her novels for older children are I Am Lavina Cumming and The Boy with the Paper Wings. She and her husband and their two daughters divide their time between Tucson, AZ, and a ranch near the Mexican border.
Contributor residences (city, state or country if outside the US or Canada): Tuscon, AZ
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