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Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance

Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance

4.7 9
by Marthe Jocelyn

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"Historical fiction buffs, especially those interested in the women’s suffrage movement, will enjoy sharing the eye-opening experiences of Mable Riley." — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

It’s the year 1901, and fourteen-year-old aspiring writer Mable Riley is on her way to fulfilling her dreams, or so she hopes. After moving with her sister to a


"Historical fiction buffs, especially those interested in the women’s suffrage movement, will enjoy sharing the eye-opening experiences of Mable Riley." — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

It’s the year 1901, and fourteen-year-old aspiring writer Mable Riley is on her way to fulfilling her dreams, or so she hopes. After moving with her sister to a faraway town, Mable meets a real writer, one who wears daring fashions, unnerves the townsfolk by sharing her opinions, and has a few shocking secrets as well. Designed as a vintage journal, MABLE RILEY follows a feisty girl as she finds her own voice in a time when women struggled for independence — a charmingly told tale that is as funny as it is inspiring.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Historical fiction buffs, especially those interested in the women's suffrage movement, will enjoy sharing the eye-opening experiences of Jocelyn's (Earthly Astonishments; The Invisible Enemy) Canadian heroine, 14-year-old Mable Riley. Written as a series of letters and journal entries, the book chronicles Mable's first venture out into the world in 1901, when she serves as teacher's assistant for her older sister, Viola, in Perth County, Ontario. Mable's spunky, irrepressible behavior at school and with her host family, the Goodhands, will likely amuse readers. Equally entertaining is Mable's seemingly limitless imagination, displayed through the episodic story "full of romance and adventure" which she writes in installments for a friend back home. The heroine's most impressive quality, however, proves to be her sense of justice, which is tested more than once after she befriends aptly named Mrs. Rattle, whose modern ideas and unusual fashions shake up the community. When Mable supports Mrs. Rattle's efforts to end cruel labor practices at a nearby cheese company, she risks losing the respect of Viola, the Goodhands and her friends at school. The teen's attendance at an organized protest rally creates plenty of drama and also supplies a history lesson on the plight of turn-of-the-century laborers. Luckily, conflicts (including Mable's arrest) dissolve smoothly, paving the way for a romantic, happily-ever-after ending. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Viola Riley is a practical and sensible (if slightly dull) young woman who has recently completed her teacher's training. Her earnings are desperately needed by her widowed mother and she bravely sets off from her much-loved home to begin working at her first teacher's post some distance away from where she grew up. With her, to be her helper in the classroom, is her lively, highly imaginative sister Mable. Mable is very unlike her sister and the two often clash, Mable wanting more freedom than her elder sister thinks is suitable or is willing to give her. Often Mable vents her frustration and fury in the words in her diary, a volume which describes all the goings-on in the area of Goodhand farm. Goodhand Farm is where the sisters are boarding and the members of the Goodhand family are quiet, simple farming folk, people unused to young girls with rebellious natures. It is 1901 and a time of great change in some ways and very little change in others. Mable soon discovers this for herself when she makes friends with the highly irregular but deliciously fascinating Mrs. Rattle. Mrs. Rattle refuses to accept the strict rules imposed on women in those days. She shocks the community by wearing bloomers and riding a bicycle. The community avoids her but Mable is drawn to her. She discovers how wrong the neighbors are in their assessment of Mrs. Rattle and for the first time Mable truly sees that looks and reputation can be very deceiving. As her story unfolds she finds that other people are not as they seem either; her sister, the righteous Mrs. Forrest, the very stolid Mr. Goodman, and even her best friend at home. They all are far more complicated that she thought they were. Formerly ajournalist and in need of a way to make a living, Mrs. Rattle sets about creating a new life for herself. In a time when women are supposed to be mothers, wives, or teachers, her way is a very difficult one. Having grown up in a well-to-do family, Mrs. Rattle admits to being trained for little of practical use. So, not having any other option, she goes to work in the cheese-making factory owned by the Forrest family. It is this singular act on her part which throws the whole community in turmoil. At first Mable sees only the romance and adventure in the life of the fascinating Mrs. Rattle, but she then discovers that there is far more to the extraordinary woman than she first thought. Mrs. Rattle sets about exposing the dreadful working conditions in the Forrest factory and soon incites her fellow workers to strike. Mable now is forced to choose between what Mrs. Rattle is trying to do for women workers and the 'rules' that dictate how young women like her should behave. In addition to describing the events in her days, Mable also writes a story in her diary. Mable sends her story to her best friend at home in installments and soon has her old friends delighted and begging for more. Her quite ludicrous and improbable story is one filled with passion. 2004, Candlewick Press, Ages 8 up.
—Marya Jansen-Gruber
KLIATT - Stephanie Squicciarini
Set in Canada in 1901 and featuring a spunky 14-year-old heroine, Mable Riley, this is a story that will appeal to fans of historical fiction as well as those who like to read about strong girl characters. Mable moves to a town with her sister Viola, who has just taken a position as the new school teacher. They are hosted by a farming family that does a lot of their business with a local cheese factory. Mable is eager for adventure and she finds it while befriending the town outsider Mrs. Rattle, a woman living on her own who is at the center of the small town's emerging fight for woman's rights and better working conditions at the factory. Written in diary format, complete with snippets of news stories and letters to and from Mable's best friend that give an understanding of the time period, Mable Riley is fun to read, even if it is a bit slower paced than other YA novels. Its ending is both exciting and satisfying. The story that Mable creates to send to her friends is also a treat. Perhaps the only drawback of the book is a slightly unfortunate cover that may not jump off the shelves at readers.
Fourteen-year-old Mable Riley is an adventurous and imaginative young woman growing up in the early twentieth century and dreaming of becoming a writer. Mable leaves home to become an assistant to her sister, the schoolteacher for the small town of Stratford, Ontario. There she meets the town's eccentric and mysterious Mrs. Rattle, a woman with no husband—horrors!—who wears bloomers and speaks her mind. Mable is drawn to this woman, who is a real writer, and hence becomes involved in the early struggles for independence for women. Composed of Mable's diary entries, the letters that she sends home, and her own novel-in-progress, this book is a funny and inspiring tale of a young girl finding her voice and the courage to make it heard. Jocelyn creates a charming heroine in Mable Riley and an equally charming story for her. Mable's search for adventure is infectious, and the stories that she writes are witty and entertaining. A cast of characters with their own equally engaging stories also surrounds her. Young women, in particular, will be drawn in by the theme of independence for women, and they will enjoy the journal style of writing. This book makes the early suffragette history engaging and entertaining, and it will be enjoyed by all who read it. VOYA Codes 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Candlewick, 288p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Julie Roberts
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Set in Canada in 1901, this gentle tale relates the adventures of a 14-year-old who accompanies her older sister to the small town where she has been hired as a teacher. Mable discovers that very little happens in Sellerton, other than her frequent spats with her sister. Most of her days are spent assisting Viola at school and doing chores on the farm where they are boarding. Her only release is found in her journal entries or in spinning her fantasies into stories that she includes in letters to a friend back home. Wanting to have someone with whom to share her feelings and desires, Mable turns to a town outcast, an eccentric woman who leads a secret group of suffragettes. As she learns more about the injustices carried out in this small rural town, she ignores her sister's warnings and puts herself in the midst of a strike at the local cheese factory. Presented in diary format, this novel is a delightful elixir of Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Avonlea and makes a wonderful introduction to journal-style writing. Although the pace is somewhat slow, the ending is dramatic and satisfying.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1901, Mable, 14, and her older sister, Viola, board with a dairy-farm family in Ontario. Viola is the new schoolteacher in Sellerton, and Mable will assist her. Their widowed mother counts on Viola's wages to help support the children left at home. Mable confides all of this, laced with her own irrepressible curiosity and high spirits, to her diary. A mysterious neighbor, Mrs. Rattle, is young, wears the new, scandalous bloomer costume, and owns a typewriter. Mable is dazzled, and more so when she learns that Mrs. Rattle's reading circle disguises a group of suffragists. Mrs. Rattle leads a climactic strike at the local cheese factory, which the farmers depend on as a market for their milk. As she wrestles with new ideas and her sister's prissy ways, Mable vents her feelings in a serial that she sends to a friend back home, full of heroes and villains, romance and royalty, allowing alert readers to see ever more deeply into her emotions. An interesting ploy, and if the inner workings are a bit too obvious, still a good read. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
"Mable Riley is absolutely charming. Her journal is funny, compassionate, and rich in detail about the everyday lives, the dreams, and the courage of ordinary people. I loved meeting Mable." — Karen Cushman, author of THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE, winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal, and CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY, a 1995 Newbery Honor Book — Karen Cushman, author of THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE, winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal, and CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY, a 1995 Newbery Honor Book

"Mable Riley is the best of everyday heroines-imaginative and funny, a thinker and a dreamer. Readers will laugh out loud at her Anne-of-Green-Gables hijinks, and cheer her independent thinking all the way." — Megan McDonald, author of the best-selling Judy Moody series — Megan McDonald, author of the best-selling Judy Moody series

"Three cheers for Mable Riley and a hurrah for author Marthe Jocelyn. . . . Mable is a force, albeit a very humorous one. . . . Readers will delight in and applaud Mable finding her voice ‘singing like rain and hollering like thunder.’" — Ken Setterington, Children and Youth Advocate for Library Services, Toronto Public Library and co-author of A GUIDE TO CANADIAN CHILDREN'S BOOKS — Ken Setterington, Children and Youth Advocate for Library Services, Toronto Public Library and co-author of A GUIDE TO CANADIAN CHILDREN'S BOOKS

"[A] wry, perceptive novel . . . As an aspiring writer, tart, determined Mable Riley rarely wants for words, and her love of the grand gesture — and the truth — mark her as a heroine readers will surely take to heart." — Leonard Marcus, author of MARGARET WISE BROWN: AWAKENED BY THE MOON — Leonard Marcus, author of MARGARET WISE BROWN: AWAKENED BY THE MOON

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.25(h) x 0.98(d)
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

After the tea but before the supper . . .

Perhaps it takes only a little determination to change the course of one’s life, for here on this very page I declared my yearning for novelty and already have I tripped across it! It came about in this manner: I went to the kitchen earlier, to borrow a needle from Mrs. Goodhand, as mine had jumped into a crack in the ?oor and hidden there. I heard Elizabeth’s cross voice as I entered, and thought at once to leave, but was seen already and could not depart naturally.

"Why must I go?" she complained. "I came only to fetch the soap for my mother. Mrs. Rattle is so peculiar! She speaks recklessly, as if to test me, and she’s never grateful in the least for our donations."

"We are being good neighbours," said Mrs. Goodhand, reproving her niece. "I have baked the loaves and they await delivery."

"Why need it be me?" asked Elizabeth as she noticed me in the doorway. "As long as the bread is delivered, why should Mable not be the do-gooder today?"

I was instantly of two minds. I had no wish to perform a task that Elizabeth found distasteful, but I could hear my mother’s voice imploring me to "be always quick in doing what is right for others."

"Is there an errand you would have done, Mrs. Goodhand?" I asked, ignoring Elizabeth’s smirk of satisfaction. Mrs. Goodhand sighed and wiped her hands upon her apron front.

"There is, Mable, though I do not approve of Elizabeth’s reluctance." She explained there is a widow lady of little means, living a mile off toward the town. Mrs. Goodhand makes to her a gift of corn bread every Sunday, though the other women of the church are not so openhanded.

"Because she’s mad," said Elizabeth. "Perfectly loony. And she does not go to church."

"Not mad, I think," said Mrs. Goodhand. "But nor is she wholesome."

I felt a shiver climb my spine.

"There is nothing to fear." Mrs. Goodhand saw me flinch and patted my arm. "She will not eat you. That is why you are bringing bread." She used one of her few smiles and sent me to fetch my shawl. I took the bundle and went the way I was pointed, wondering at whom I should find. I expected a withered crone crouching behind brambles, waving a hawthorn cane and muttering dreadful maledictions.

Think, then, of my surprise when the door of a cottage called Silver Lining was opened by a woman only a few years older than Viola, perhaps five and twenty. She wore a most extraordinary ensemble — her skirt coming only to her knees, with wide trousers underneath, gathered tight at the ankles. She wore slippers on her feet coloured the deepest red, as though she’d been wading in blood. She looked like the illustration of a Persian genie in a book, and not at all like a widow lady in a farm cottage in Ontario. It was her dark hair, unconfined and hanging loose about her face, that made me recollect the bicycle rider we had passed on our first night in Sellerton. This must be she!

"Did you think you were arriving at an exhibit, my dear?" she asked, raising one eyebrow high. "Or have you some purpose here other than to stare?"

Meet the Author

Marthe Jocelyn is an award-winning author and illustrator who worked for many years as a toy designer before turning her hand to writing. She has written six novels, including the critically acclaimed works of historical fiction, Mable Riley and Earthly Astonishments. Jocelyn has also written a nonfiction account of the Foundling Hospital in London, England, entitled, A Home for Foundlings. She has created eight picture books, one of which, Hannah’s Collections, was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration. Jocelyn has also edited two collections of short stories. Marthe Jocelyn divides her time between New York and Stratford, Ontario.

From the Hardcover edition.

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4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thnx! I am in a tough spot. He is the only guy who has ever looked at me the way he does. And he is my best friend! Its gonna be a long hard year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this girl and my friend told her that i like her but she was dating someone at the time and hasnt said anything since but they broke up a day after my friend told her she still hasnt said anything or talked to me we were really good friends but now she kind of walks past me like im nothing and also shes kind of like a girl version of a player she gets guys then dumps them but shes also really nice so i dont know if i should ask her out
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The thing is, him and l are besties. I have said hi, and l am just not sure if l want to ask him out as this may ruin our... friendsjip.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good Luck!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved how detailed Jocelyn wrote the 'diary.' The first few pages were not so good but then I found myself attached to it . I could not put it down !!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great coming of age story that happens during the begininnig of the women's movement during the early 1900's in Canada. Mable learns many things during this year of her life. Most importantly, she learns to think and act for herself. Very impressive book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wished I had Mable for a daughter. Her integrity would make any woman or mother proud.This historical fiction book, written in a diary format, is charming, funny and a wonderful realistic account of a young girl who is coming of age, understanding the difficulties during the sufferget period, and how she processes it for herself.