In this, her third book about her childhood, Bonnie Geisert recounts many events from the winter of 1952 in South Dakota. “Rachel Johnson”, age 11, describes farm life from the point of view of the middle child in a family of five. Rachel loves school, but when winter gets tough, school is canceled, and Rachel must stay home with her parents, three sisters and baby brother. Vacation from school means chores on the farm, and Rachel wishes her father would consent to buy a telephone so she could at least stay in touch with her friends. Eventually, she accompanies her two older sisters into town, via helicopter, to stay at the local hotel and attend school while the roads are still blocked. Rachel realizes that life in town has its disadvantages and that she misses home.
The Johnsons present a healthy view of life in a large family. Sibling squabbles, apologies and loyalties make them believable and likeable. Geisert describes tension between parental standards and teenage wills realistically, but with tact. When the Johnson children discover that their mother is expecting again, they worry about what their schoolmates will think, but their parents accept this new life with joy. Rachel is a normal preteen who finds the balance between independence and respect for her parents.
Jennifer Minicus lives in Ridgewood, NJ with her family. Her love for the formation of young people inspired her interest in children’s literature.