Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine 1918 (Dear America)

by Lois Lowry

Hardcover, 2011


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Call number

J DA 1918 ME



Scholastic Inc. (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 224 pages


After being orphaned during the influenza epidemic of 1918, eleven-year-old Lydia Pierce and her fourteen-year-old brother are taken by their grieving uncle to be raised in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. Includes author's note about the Shakers.

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User reviews

LibraryThing member rebecca191
Eleven-year-old Lydia Pierce lives a carefree life in Portland, Maine, in 1918, until the terrible flu epidemic that is spreading worldwide takes the lives of her parents and baby sister. Lydia and her older brother Daniel are now orphans, and their aunt and uncle have no room for them on the
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crowded family farm. With no other options available, their uncle takes them to live in Sabbathday Lake with the Shakers, who care for orphaned children.

Life with the Shakers is very different from Lydia’s old life in Portland. The Shakers have many rules that must be strictly followed. Males and females must stay separate and not socialize, which means Lydia can rarely speak to her brother. In her diary Lydia describes her first few months living with the Shakers and how she eventually adjusts and finds some happiness in her new life.

I was really looking forward to this new Dear America book as the historical setting looked really interesting and unique. However, the main character, Lydia, seemed to adjust far too quickly to her new life. Her parents and little sister died, she and her brother were separated, she had to start a totally new life in a place with very different rules and a new religion, where she could not even keep the few mementos she had of her family and old life - and less than a month later, she didn’t seem too sad or concerned and her only worry was that she thought her brother might be unhappy. It seemed more than a bit unrealistic for an eleven-year-old girl to adjust so quickly to so many losses and I would have enjoyed the story more and found it more realistic if these changes in Lydia had taken place over a longer period of time. While the historical information was interesting - I hadn’t read any books before about Shaker life during this time period - ultimately, I just found the main character to be totally unrealistic. Three stars for the historical detail and interesting setting, and possibly still worth a read if you are a dedicated fan of the series, but personally, how unrealistic the main character seemed pretty much ruined the book for me.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
I was excited to see that Lowry was contributing a title to the Dear America series, and expected it to be a cut above others in the series -- which it was.

Lydia and her brother Daniel, orphaned during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918, are taken to live with the Shaker community at Sabbathday
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Lake, Maine. Lydia soon adapts to her new surroundings, but Daniel is not so happy, and Lydia worries about him.

This is an extremely well-researched book, and presents a sympathetic view of the small Shaker community. My only issue with the book is that Lydia did seem to adapt very quickly to a completely different lifestyle than the one to which she was accustomed. Still, I give it high marks for being well-researched and well-written, and for adding to the historical breadth of the Dear America series by presenting a community and time period not often featured in juvenile fiction.
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Physical description

224 p.; 5.5 x 0.75 inches


0545144698 / 9780545144698



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