Boston Jane by Jennifer Holm

Date reviewed: 2/04/03       Grades 4-8        IL   9-12        Read chapter 1 at the author’s website!

Summary: Tomboy Jane wants to fit in with other Boston girls her age and win the affection/approval of her crush, William. She enrolls in a “finishing school” which pleases William but horrifies her father (a surgeon) who liked her just the way she was. When William withdraws from an internship with her father and attempts a frontier business, Jane remains in correspondence. At 16, William suddenly proposes marriage and Jane is off to join him. After a horrible voyage, Jane arrives in Oregon to find that William has gone off on a business trip. Jane must survive on her own until his return. She learns that finishing school etiquette has no place in the wilderness.

Personal Reaction: Strong YA female character – Jane begins strong, wavers, and finds her self-esteem once again. Her assessment of what is right for her makes this a fun read. I was confused about her father’s last moments with her – it seemed like he may have been terminally ill and didn’t tell her, but it was left unclear. The positive treatment of Native American Indians is well done.

Points for discussion with children:  pioneers, frontier life, society etiquette, personal development, Chinook Indians

Possible classroom uses: Of course there will be some parents/cultures who don’t like girls being told that they can decide who they are and who they want to be, but if this book is used in conjunction with a pioneer unit, the issues could be set aside.

Connections to other books? Just Ella by Margaret Petersen Haddix takes the typical Cinderella story and has the character analyze whether she really wants to be a stuffy princess after all. There are 2 other Boston Jane novels: Wilderness Days and The Claim. I also like The Midwife’s Apprentice by Cushman for a smart girl set in another historical period.

Realia: ladies gloves, wedding dress (or doll’s outfit), green silk, Chinook style or animal skin clothing, redhead doll

Food items connected to story: cherry pie


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