Children's Literature Bookshelf

“Rosetown” by Cynthia Rylant. Simon and Schuster, New York, 2018, 149 pages, Grades 3-5.

“Rosetown” by Cynthia Rylant.  
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2018, 149 pages, Grades 3-5.

When children leave the primary grades and begin the fourth grade, a number of difficult things occur in school.  First, the math becomes harder.  Second, the books for class begin to have larger and more complicated words.  Finally, they are frequently more unsettled emotionally than in the K-3 world.  They are beginning to grow up with all the changes this brings.  Will they have friends?  Why do they sometimes feel shy or sensitive?  Even the furniture in the classroom is larger.  It is little wonder that they may feel unsettled.  Cynthia Rylant has written a tender novel about these issues.  We see Flora Smallworld, a third grade girl, trying to make sense out of her life.  The name of this endearing novel is “Rosetown.”

Flora is somewhat frightened as she enters the fourth grade.  She is particularly worried about finding a friend.  Quiet and timid, Flora does not automatically reach out to others.  Living in Rosetown, Indiana, the child is sheltered by the small town protective environment.  But troubles have still found their way into her life.  Her father, Forester, and her mother, Emma Jean, no longer live in the same house.  They aren’t divorced, just separated.  Forester is a photographer for the local newspaper, and Emma Jean is something of a free spirit poet. 

Flora finds a great deal of peace reading at a local bookstore named Wings and a Chair Used Books.  She is particularly attracted to older books.  As the school year begins, a Ukrainian boy sits behind her in class.  His name is Yury and he has an adventurous spirit.  At the same time, Flora becomes friends with a girl named Nessy.  The three children begin to help each other experience parts of the world they know little about.  Yury gets a puppy and with Flora’s help, enrolls the dog in obedience school.  Soon, Flora watches Yury walking the dog all over Rosetown and teaching the dog perfect obedience. 

Yury dreams of beginning many adventures as the children read together at the bookstore.  As Flora begins to find the acceptance she needs, she begins to learn important lessons about love and life.  Her teacher encourages her to write a story for a national magazine.  This boosts up her whole world.  But her parents still do not live together.  How can she help them learn to care for each other again?  One day, her father asks her if she would like to see shooting stars during a meteor shower.  He tells her that he wants Emma Jean to come on the excursion.  Flora become excited.  Maybe this is the beginning she has wanted for so long.  What happens?

Do Forester and Emma Jean get back together again?  How do Yury and Nessy build up Flora’s confidence?   Why are friends so necessary?  Has a friend ever helped you?  How do Flora’s friends help her to become confident?  To find out, go to the library and read this charming book, “Rosetown” by Cynthia Rylant.

“Rosetown” is the beautifully told story of a fourth grade girl making sense out of her life.  While Flora has to overcome obstacles within her family and her personal friendships, Rylant always surrounds her with a protective environment.  Cynthia Rylant has won the Newbery Medal for her touching book “Missing May.” Her characters always have some kind of a personal struggle, but are presented in a hopeful light.  Readers will experience the author’s loving character in her novels.  I encourage you to read this novel or any of the other fine novels by Cynthia Rylant. They are always comforting and inspiring.  Enjoy!

Terrence Nollen




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