"Holm incorporates warmth, humor, excitement and even a wedding into her story. . . . Narrating events in dryly witty, plainspoken first-person, this indomitable teen draws readers in with her account, through which her world comes alive. Readers who enjoyed the first novel should embrace May Amelia again and may well believe that the only “trouble” with her is that the sequel didn’t happen sooner.
* "Anyone interested in learning to write crowd-pleasing historical fiction for elementary school readers would be wise to study Holm's work. Since Our Only May Amelia (HarperCollins, 1999), Holm has collected three Newbery Honors, and this sequel demonstrates her mastery of writing a complete, exciting story in a trim novel. Twelve-year-old May Amelia Jackson lives on a farm in Washington State in 1900 with her parents, Finnish immigrants, and a passel of brothers. Life is hard, but Holm works humor into even the grimmest situations, and Gustavson's chapter-opening spot art adds a cozy, atmospheric touch. A ransacking bull (named Friendly) knocks down the outhouse (with May Amelia inside); suitors romancing Miss McEwing are sent packing in various, inventive ways lest the school lose its beloved teacher. Judicious use of Finnish phrases adds flavor, and details ground the story in an era when boys were still routinely "shanghaied" (involuntarily pressed into service on ships bound for Asia). "Best Brother" Wilbert tells her she's as irritating as a grain of sand in an oyster, and it's mighty fun to watch May Amelia morph into a pearl.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
Gr 5–7—Holm reunites readers with the protagonist of Our Only May Amelia (HarperCollins, 1999). It is 1900 and the 13-year-old lives with seven brothers on the family farm along the Nasel River in Washington State. What is the "trouble" with May Amelia? Everything, according to her father, beginning and ending with her gender. Nevertheless, she possesses "sisu," Finnish for "guts and courage." It carries her through the continued sorrow over the death of her baby sister; the loss of the farm due to a phony land-development scheme; and the shame and blame her family receive as a result. At a time when life is harsh and prejudices are expressed through the use of words like "Chinamen," for Chinese townspeople, and "shanghaied," May Amelia, like Turtle in Holm's Turtle in Paradise (Random, 2010), is less an "irritating grain of sand" than she is a pearl. Both girls possess a talent for saucy quips and sensitive interiors where pain runs deep, but that never overtakes either heroine completely. These girls come from very different, extremely difficult periods in U.S. history, yet their stories read as extensions of one another. While some readers may find these three books too similar, others will find them satisfying.—Tracy Karbel, Chicago Public Library