"I'm sorry ma'am, but customers aren't supposed to go down there. My uncle wouldn't like it."
"Oh, bother your uncle. If he asks, tell him he has nothing to fear from me. My name's Willa Cather and I'm not really a customer."
Fifteen-year old Molly Klein knew her uncle wouldn't want a customer to see the basement coop of his poultry store, where chicks were born and raised in total darkness. Molly herself hated to visit the cellar. But this woman would not accept no for an answer.
Imagine Molly's surprise the first day of school when she discovers the woman wearing the crisp white shirtwaist is also her new teacher-Willa Cather. It's one more challenge for Molly in her new world, where her mother still acts like a greenhorn, her father and brothers are missing, and her best friend, Cleo, faces a horrible burden.
Her brother may call her bossy, but it's Molly's spirit that guides her in this new novel for 10-14 year old readers. Anne Faigen bases her richly detailed story, set in Pittsburgh in the early 1900s, in historical fact: Willa Cather's first professional employment after her graduation from the University of Nebraska was, indeed, at a publication office in Pittsburgh, and she did teach Latin, then English, in two city high schools.
1900 Pittsburgh was a city of contrasts. Immigrant families like Molly's, often separated from loved ones, struggled to assimilate, while wealthy philanthropists, including Mellon, Westinghouse, Frick, and Carnegie, were already enriching the city's cultural life with a great museum, elegant concert halls and theaters, a fine symphony orchestra, and an unparalleled system of free, public libraries.
Anne Faigen vividly captures both worlds through the eyes of her young heroine, Molly Klein, who is equally sure to capture the imaginations of young readers.