Laura’s Luck is the second book in a trilogy about two sisters, Amy and Laura growing up in the Bronx in the 1940’s. For a little backstory for the uninitiated, in the first book, Amy Moves In, the two sisters’ lives are turned upside down when their mother is in a horrific car accident. Mom is hospitalized and is expected to remain so for several months. So their dad’s sister, Aunt Minnie, moves in to help care for the girls. Laura’s Luck starts many months after mom’s accident when Aunt Minnie decides to visit other family members. Dad sends Amy and Laura to camp for the summer.
Amy, a ten year old social butterfly, is fine. She takes to camp immediately. But it’s a different story for almost twelve year old Laura, who is clumsy, bookish and shy. Laura immediately has difficulty with camp, not the least of which is that she is bunked with the eleven year olds despite being an extremely mature almost-12. A city girl at heart, she is loathe to enjoy nature. She can’t participate in the sports because of her natural clumsiness. She just generally has a hard time fitting in, and is having a harder time keeping a brave face in her letters to her parents. Laura ends up spraining her ankle and spends some time in the infirmary. The camp director befriends her, brings her nature books and agrees that Laura should be in the 12 year old bunks.
Laura quickly befriends Anne and quickly becomes enemies with Betty. The girls in the cabin sneak out to do an initiation for Laura, but she gets lost and gets the whole cabin in trouble. So Betty hates her even more. She makes Laura’s life miserable so Laura and Anne put muddy worms in her bed.
As the book goes on, Laura comes out of her shell. She ends up being very adept at identifying plants, and saves an overnight campout at a supposedly haunted island when she correctly identifies what everyone thought was a ghostly scream as a loon. On her birthday, her mom sends her a book of Andersen’s Fairy Tales and the whole cabin falls in love with The Nightingale. On the last night, the cabin puts on The Nightingale for their show and Laura even stars as the nightingale. Also, Laura finally completes her initiation in to the cabin.
- I’m not even kidding when I say what a sweetheart of a book this is. It kinda gives me the warm fuzzies. It was written in 1965, though the story takes place in the 40’s. It’s actually difficult to pinpoint when the story takes place, as the only 40’s reference is to Roosevelt being president.
- Even so, it’s actually a little disconcerting to read a book that takes place in the 1940’s, yet never mentions WWII. I can’t think of another book like that.
- Also, every character is female and they’re all shown being strong independent people. So I was surprised on re-reading this book how feminist it feels.
- Marilyn Sachs sure does love her adverbs. In two random pages, we have the following: “smiled encouragingly”, “looked around indulgently”, “explained triumphantly”, “felt strongly”, “said impatiently.” And as far as the adverbs go, I’m gonna give Marilyn Sachs a pass on it, even though I will argue with anyone (and have!) that JK Rowling’s overuse of adverbs weakened the entire Harry Potter series. So why give Sachs a pass? Well, because this book was written in 1965 and girls reading it then would have been raised on Dick and Jane. So the expectations would be lower. However, I expect JK’s writing to be a little more sophisticated.
- This is what I mean by old fashioned. At dinner one night, Laura hears the chant from another table: “Amy, Amy if you’re able. Get your elbows off the table. This is not a horse’s stable!” And Amy was looking guilty for having had her elbows on the table! And Laura was “going to have to have a word with her later.” I mean…these girls care about something as quaint as elbows on the table!
- Ohhhh….another thing I love. Listen to this list of names: Betty, Gertie, Florence, Helen, Paula, Wilma and Ruth. These are names of ten to twelve year old kids (and probably many of your grandmothers!) I hate my name, which totally dates me to the decade of my birth. I always wanted a cool old-fashioned name, and I just wanted to climb in this book and steal Florence’s name. Or Gertie. I’d make a great Flo or Gert, don’t you think?
- I hope the entire population hasn’t become too cynical to still enjoy books like this. And this is coming from someone who breathes cynicism.
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