I really wanted to like this book. I love the idea of the diary format (and I loved A Midwife's Tale), and I'm really interested in the time period, and especially the everyday tasks of a household -- but Catherine (the 13 year old narrator) just never became all that interesting to me.
The story is Catherine's account of a bit more than a year - and it did do a good job of making winter in New Hampshire sound cold and hard! Catherine takes care of her little sister, goes to school with her best friend and neighbor Cassie, mourns her mother, who died before the book started, attends church twice on the Sabbath, enjoys winter "breaking out" and making maple sugar, and eventually deals with a stepmother, a harsh schoolteacher, and tedious quilt-making. There is a matter-of-fact accounting of runaway indentured servants and slavery and The Liberator, a Boston abolitionist newspaper, and mill girls in Lowell, Massachusetts. And although I enjoyed the narrative, and appreciated the historical detail, I felt curiously disconnected from the story.
For example, here's part of the entry for March 1, 1831, that I think illustrates the flavor of the journal:
The sun, I think, has acquired some warmth. Now when it filters through trees, still bare, it pits the snow beneath. Cassie says she saw two robins - the very first of the season. Tradition has it that luck will be hers. But Spring, I think, suffices; and Spring comes to us all.I don't think that this is one of the Newbery winners that I'll want to keep on my shelves to read again and again, but it was a relaxing way to spend a cold, rainy late winter day.