Mary Smith

Mary Smith

5.0 1
by Andrea U'Ren
     
 

Time to get up!

Did you ever wonder how people woke up in time for school

or work in the days before alarm clocks? In the early twentieth century, townspeople in England hired "knocker-ups" like Mary Smith for a few pence a week. Mary Smith traveled through predawn streets armed with a peashooter and a pocket watch, waking her clients at whatever hour

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Overview

Time to get up!

Did you ever wonder how people woke up in time for school

or work in the days before alarm clocks? In the early twentieth century, townspeople in England hired "knocker-ups" like Mary Smith for a few pence a week. Mary Smith traveled through predawn streets armed with a peashooter and a pocket watch, waking her clients at whatever hour they requested by plinking dried peas at their bedroom windows.

In rollicking words and pictures, Andrea U’Ren re-creates one busy morning in the life of her intrepid true-life subject – a morning when Mary Smith helps her town start its day in timely fashion, only to receive a rude awakening when she comes home. Could it be that the knocker-up’s own daughter has been sleeping in?

 

Mary Smith is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"U'Ren unearths a fascinating tidbit from the past...This seamless blend of fact and fiction joins the likes of Sarah Wilson's Three in a Balloon in lighting up a morsel of strange-but-true history." —Starred, Kirkus Reviews

"U'Ren's London has the hearty, old-fashioned styling of early-20th-century illustration...her compositions are fresh and modern, merging with the semi-nostalgic style for a distinctive, appealingly quaint mood." —Publishers Weekly

"A rollicking read." —School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by a historical curiosity, U'Ren's (Pugdog) robust tale will grab readers with its quirky subject matter and witty delivery, and encourage them to imagine the past. First introduced in a period photo, the real-life Mary Smith was a "knocker-up," someone hired to wake people; an endnote situates the need for this profession during the rise of modern factory and mill work. Only slowly does U'Ren reveal the fictionalized Mary's career, slyly piquing the audience's curiosity about the protagonist's purposeful, pre-dawn stride around London. "She takes one dried pea (wrinkly!) from her pocket and puts it into her peashooter. Then... she blows! Tink! She's hit the baker's window!" Her tour concludes at sunrise, when she returns home to her daughter, who has been dismissed from school. It turns out that the girl shot a pea at a sleeping classmate, hitting the teacher instead. "For shame!" rebukes the stout, no-nonsense Mary, before collapsing with laughter. "We really must work on your aim!" That gleeful irreverence pervades the story; in another example, to the mayor's "See you tomorrow morning, right?" Mary cheerily replies, "Dim and early!" U'Ren's London has the hearty, old-fashioned styling of early-20th-century illustration. She favors doughy-faced characters, broad washes of color and thick black outlines. At the same time her compositions are fresh and modern, merging with the semi-nostalgic style for a distinctive, appealingly quaint mood. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In the days before everyone had alarm clocks, there really were women like Mary Smith called "knocker-ups." Mary walks through town early each workday morning with her peashooter and dry peas, shooting at the windows of those she is supposed to wake up. She stops at the houses of the baker, the train conductor, the laundry maids, finally the mayor, who thanks her for her work. When she arrives home, to her surprise she finds her daughter still in bed. She hasn't overslept; she has been sent home for using her own peashooter in school. Her mother chides her, but only for her poor aim; she will have to practice more. There is a basic no-nonsense appeal to the simplified naturalistic settings and characters of this unusual tale. Mary is a very appealing, solid-looking woman with a purposeful stride. The village, in the pre-dawn gray, is deserted but as the well-aimed peas do their work, lights come on and people wake up. The action is on the comic side across the double pages. There is a note including more factual information, plus a black- and-white photograph of the real Mary Smith in 1927 in the East End of London. 2003, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Ages 4 to 7.
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-Before folks in England had alarm clocks, they had "knocker-ups," people who, "for a few pennies," would shoot peas at their windows to wake them. A keen combination of historical fact, comical illustrations, and rib-tickling wit brings this pea-shooting Mary and her times to life. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
U'Ren unearths a fascinating tidbit from the past. It seems that in days before mechanical alarm clocks were common in Britain, "knocker-ups" were hired to tap persistently on workers' bedroom windows in the morning. Some used long sticks, window-washer style, but Mary Smith's tool of choice was a pea shooter. Sound unlikely? Actual photos of Smith and another no-doubt-underappreciated community helper sandwich the author's depiction of a large, confident looking woman making her morning rounds through a drowsy town, then returning home to find her own daughter under the covers-not late for school, fortunately, but sent home after trying to wake a sleeping classmate with her own pea shooter, and hitting the teacher instead. "We really must work on your aim," laughs Mary, and the cheerful couple is last seen doing just that. This seamless blend of fact and fiction joins the likes of Sarah Wilson's Three in a Balloon (1990) in lighting up a morsel of strange-but-true history. (afterword) (Picture book. 7-9)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374348427
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
08/13/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
10.64(w) x 7.79(h) x 0.39(d)
Lexile:
470L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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