Booklist Top Ten Youth First Novel
Chosen for Schaumburg Township, Illinois for its Schaumburg Township Reads program.
Dear Papa, Mama got a job! I hope you don't turn over in your grave like she says. We all tried to eat a little less but that doesn't pay the electric bill, she says. It was expensive for you to go to the hospital, and then to be buried besides really added up. (Not that we blame you!)
Nine-year-old Isabelle and her class are learning how to write letters, and it's a good thing, too - for she has a lot to write to Papa about after he dies. First of all, her cat ran away; then her older sisters, Irma and Inez, both got boyfriends; little Ida hardly remembers Papa at all; and brother Ian is just plain mad to be left with a house full of females. As for Mama, ever since she sold Papa's filling station and got a job cleaning houses, she's always tired with a capital "T."
But there's something much worse: Mama's family wants her to ship Isabelle off to live with her none-too-favorite aunt and uncle, to help lighten the load for Mama at home. Now who will be there to stop little Ida from calling Mama's new boss "Papa"?
"DEAR PAPA taps into the almost forgotten art of letter correspondence in today's digital and e-mail world...It's sure to be a hit with the popular 'diary' book readers." School Library Journal
The letters are personal and immediate, and the story is full of daily details that evoke the historical period and also dramatize the child's conflict between loyalty to her birth father and her growing love for the man who fathers her now. In her last letter to Papa in heaven, the adult Isabelle says of her stepdad, "I love him most for letting me love you best." The simple words grab your heart in this moving first novel. - Hazel Rochman Booklist
Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn finds a distant cousin in this series of letters about a girl in the 1940's trying to cope as cheerfully as she can with the loss of her father. So many changes: Mama gets a job, the sisters are sent to live with country cousins, and what on earth is Mr. Frank trying to pull with a marriage proposal? The voice is authentic, as Isabelle wrestles with the mores and prejudices of her time, particularly in regard to religion. Isabelle's outspoken, even out-and-out fresh-mouthed reactions to situations will elicit laughter from readers, and the author does a good job of expressing the frustration children have when they must stand by helplessly while grown-ups insist on making silly decisions. While the ending feels a little rushed, this book as a whole still holds strong as a character study of a little girl that other little girls will want to know. -- Esme Raji Codell PlanetEsme.com
This heartfelt book of a girl who must experience many changes to her family touched me, because I felt the same way when I had to move to a new house and when my little sister was born. If I would have been Isabelle, I would have come home to my mother too because I would have missed her very much. If you like heartfelt and touching books, read this one to find out if her wish to have one happy family again comes true. - Ashley Hartlaub KidRead.com
Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker is an absorbing, emotional and sensitive novel that would appeal to readers of any age and in particular, eight years and above. This novel-in-letters set during World War II revolves around Isabelle, who is highly individualistic and independent and keeps her "Papa in heaven" up-to-date with what is happening in her family. For a debut novel, the caricature of the characters, especially that of Isabelle is par excellence. The heroine of the novel is created with much care and imagination coupled with a pinch of psychological insight, especially while she struggles to cope with the loss of her father.
Dear Papa unfolds itself in the mind and heart of Isabelle and this is the unique feature of the book. Emotionally-charged words, innocent actions, the fear of God, dilemma between Lutheran and Catholic beliefs, conflict between idealism and reality—all these are very finely fabricated to produce a honest and powerful book. The major strength of the book is the readers' insight into the child's mind: how an eight-year-old girl perceives her immediate environment in the absence of her beloved father. I would rate this impressive fiction as 4+ (1-4, 4 being the best). -Prathiba.N., Canberra, Australia TeenLit.com