The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

by Sandra Merville Hart

This children’s chapter book is a treasure.

I read it many times to my daughter when she was in elementary school.

Wanda Petronski didn’t come to school for a couple of days before Maddie missed her. Wanda was quiet. She didn’t have any friends at school. She wore the same clean, faded blue dress every day.

So when she claims to have a hundred beautiful dresses in her closet, the girls laugh at her. Then they ask her about them daily.

Maddie is poor too. She doesn’t laugh or ask Wanda to describe the dresses as Peggy, her best friend, does.

As the days pass and Wanda doesn’t return, Maddie begins to worry about her and to examine her own actions.

A poignant story with believable characters that tug at your heart.

Recommended for children in elementary school.

Stuart Little by E.B. White

by Sandra Merville Hart

Stuart Little is a mouse, but one thing that makes him extraordinary is that his mother, father, and older brother are human.

Since Stuart is only two inches tall, his bed is a cigarette box. He has plenty of adventures with his family and the family cat before Margalo, a beautiful bird, comes to live with the family.

Stuart exudes confidence and gets into many scrapes dangerous to a mouse.

I didn’t read this book as a child when I might have liked it. As an adult, the story seems disjointed. He acts like more like an adult than a child from the beginning. When Stuart is seven, he leaves his home in the middle of the night without saying goodbye. At seven, he didn’t ask permission to leave, which a young child will notice.

The main character isn’t successful in his quest to find his friend Margalo, who flew north. The book ends on a vague note with no real ending or resolution. It almost seems the author grew bored with the story or perhaps ran out of ideas.

After loving Charlotte’s Web, another book by the same author, I was disappointed in this one.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

by Sandra Merville Hart

Newberry Honor Book

I read this book as a child and loved it. When I read it as an adult, I saw other levels of meaning.

This book is about friendship. Wilbur the pig is the runt of the litter. Fern, a little girl on the farm where the pig lives, rescues him and raises the farm animal as her pet.

Wilbur becomes friends with Charlotte, a spider in the barn where they both live. When the pig learns he’s in danger, he turns to Charlotte. This amazing spider helps him.

The characters in this story are believable and relatable. Friendship and sacrifice are part of this classic children’s story.

Recommend for children in elementary school.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

by Sandra Merville Hart

Book 4 of the Little House series

I loved this book!

I found this book among my daughter’s childhood collection and read it. What a refreshing read!

Laura Ingalls is seven when her family moves to Minnesota. Their first home is a sod home by Plum Creek, and they all have much to learn about living there—including what the term “grasshopper weather” implies.

Her father plants a wheat crop that will pay for a new home and buy many things the family has had to do without. Then tragedy strikes.

I love Laura’s feisty character and how she longs to be more like her older sister Mary, who is always obedient. Every character is well-defined and lovable.

The descriptions of everyday life and Laura’s new experiences captivated me as a reader. As an author of historical novels set in American history, those details took on deeper meaning. I loved it!

I read some of this series as a child. I look forward to reading the whole collection!

Recommend for children in elementary school and for lovers of American history.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

by Sandra Merville Hart

Winner of the Newbery Medal

This simple children’s story gripped me from the first page.

The story opens with Anna’s mother giving birth to Caleb. Her mother died the next day and it took three days for Anna to love her brother.

Several years pass. Readers aren’t told how old the children are when her father places an ad for a mail-order bride. Sarah writes that she will come for one month … just to try it.

On the prairie, Anna and Caleb are desperate for a mother. Will she stay?

I love the characters in this story. It drew me in so that I wanted to keep reading. The story is told entirely from Anna’s perspective.

Another thing I loved is how children will read it on one level and adults will see another level of meaning.

Recommend for elementary and middle grade readers!

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy by Elizabeth R. Varon

by Sandra Merville Hart

The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew,

A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy

I discovered this book while researching to write my “Spies of the Civil War” series. The second and third book in my series are set in Richmond, Virginia, in 1862. I wanted to learn more about Richmond’s most famous Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew.

The author of this biography gives her childhood background and a bit of her family history as well yet the main focus is the Civil War years.

Plenty of important historical events connected with war happened in Richmond. Elizabeth wasn’t the only Union supporter—called Unionists—during the war. Others worked as spies for the North. We know the most about the activities of Elizabeth Van Lew.

A well-written and compassionate biography of Elizabeth’s life.  

Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas

by Sandra Merville Hart

Forts of Refuge Series

Book One

Wow! This story gripped me from the first page.

Sarah Feight’s life on the 1763 Pennsylvania frontier felt like paradise.  She lives with her husband David in their wilderness clearing near his two brothers and their families. One tragic, brutal night changes everything.

Leith McCully, a friend of the Feight brothers, rescues Sarah and takes her to Fort Pitt where many settlers have sought refuge from the Ottawa, Chippewa, and other tribes.

Believable characters touched my heart with their struggles. These are characters I learned to love and hope to see more of in future books in the series.

Well-written. Heart-wrenching. Action-packed. Steeped in historical events. Full of twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. I couldn’t put it down!

I will look for more books by this author. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

The Grace Impact by Nancy Kay Grace

by Sandra Merville Hart

A Devotional

What a great book on the topic of God’s grace!

This book is divided into four sections about abounding grace, sufficient grace, the omnipresence of God, and abundant grace.

Each devotion begins with scripture and ends with thought-provoking questions. Suggested scriptures for further reading are also included.

I loved the way the author uses her own experiences and those of others to illustrate grace.

Thirty days of devotions can be read in less than ten minutes for personal reflections. The book would also be great for a group study.

The author has been captivated by God’s grace for years. Not only is “Grace” her last name, the name “Nancy” in Hebrew means “grace” so it must have seemed almost inevitable that she’d ponder the topic.

An easy-to-read and thought-provoking devotional. Recommend!



Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti

by Sandra Merville Hart

A page turner!

Mara Jacobs is hanging on by a thread. Trying to raise three children on her own while Liam, her husband, is in Africa on a four-year mission has stretched her to the breaking point. He’s digging wells to provide clean, healthy drinking water to villages where none was available while she struggles to keep her head above water.

He has offered to come home several times, especially when their son was arrested. Mara assured him that she was capable of handling the situation on her own.

Only she wasn’t. Then tragedy strikes.

The author uses deep point of view in a story told entirely from the main character’s perspective. It allows readers to experience her emotions, her thoughts, and her grief.

This multi-layered story was difficult to read. The first third of it was especially hard to get through—very emotional, negative.

I’m glad I stuck with it because the story gripped me soon after. I couldn’t put it down. Lots of surprising twists and turns snagged my interest and didn’t let go.

This isn’t the first novel I’ve read by this talented author. I will look for more. Recommend!

Celtic Wanderings by Cindy Thomson

by Sandra Merville Hart

A 40-Day Devotional

Daily inspiration from ancient Celtic voices.

I have read other books by Cindy Thomson so I was eager to buy her newest release. It did not disappoint!

This book isn’t like other devotionals I’ve read. All devotions begin with a scripture reference and personal thoughts on the scripture. Each ends with a challenge and a prayer.

What fascinated me was how the author wove ancient Celtic history into each devotion. I’m a Christian who loves history and it was a joy to read a devotional that combined both of these loves.

Devotions are divided into sections, such as Travel, Gather, and Remember.

Each devotion took about five minutes to read, so it’s great for busy readers.

Thought-provoking. Inspiring. Educational.

I loved it!