Cover image for Dear Papa
Title:
Dear Papa
Author:
Ylvisaker, Anne.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
184 pages ; 21 cm
Summary:
In September of 1943, one year after her father's death, nine-year-old Isabelle begins writing him letters, which are interspersed with letters to other members of her family, relating important events in her life and how she feels about them.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
700 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.6 4.0 61321.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.3 7 Quiz: 41674.
ISBN:
9780763616182
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Heartfelt and funny, this novel-in-letters set during World War II introduces a winning heroine who learns to cope with the loss of her father - with a loyal heart, an independent attitude, and an unforgettable way with words. 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"?


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-6. In 1943 nine-year-old Isabelle begins writing letters to her beloved papa, whose sudden death a year before has left her family shaken with grief. In a voice innocent and smart, heartbroken and funny, she imagines him in heaven ("If you see Jesus around, will you please explain?"), complains about her mom and her siblings and the unfairness of her life, and reveals her sorrow. She also tells the family story and begins writing letters to the living, especially when Mom decides to remarry a man who is Catholic! What's a Lutheran kid to do? 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


Publisher's Weekly Review

Much like the heroine in a Shirley Temple movie, the protagonist of this first novel is pert, spunky and finger-in-the-dimple cute. Isabelle, nine years old when the story opens in 1943, writes the many letters that constitute the narrative. As the title suggests, she writes most frequently to her father, who has died of illness or, as Isabelle puts it in her first missive, "went to heaven." Initially, Isabelle describes daily life in their St. Paul, Minn., home, but as money grows tight and her mother sinks into exhaustion, Isabelle's older sisters go to one uncle's farm while Isabelle is packed off to a childless married uncle in a small town. Isabelle expands her correspondence to include her mother, siblings and a far-off aunt, all the while plotting to return home. While Ylvisaker creates humor in having Isabelle tailor her delivery of similar information to different addressees, this device also results in repetitiousness and keeps most of the characters at a distance from readers. Isabelle's voice, meanwhile, seems contrived. Telling her dead father why she has done something wrong, she adds, "If you see Jesus around there, would you please explain?" When she tries to be bad at her aunt and uncle's, the worst she can come up with is this breakfast repartee: "I'm not going to eat this darn mush without sugar! It's sour like everything else at this darn funeral home." The stakes may be too low and the storytelling too slack to sustain readers' interest. Ages 9-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Set in Minnesota during World War II, this story emerges as nine-year-old Isabelle begins writing letters to her dead father. The first letter was simply to fulfill a brief school assignment, but her writings soon take on a life of their own as the child undergoes many changes. She is sent to live with an aunt and uncle, contends with well-meaning relatives, and struggles with her Lutheran mother's marriage to a Catholic. Along with letters to her father, she also writes to other family members asking for favors, discussing her latest plans to get herself home, and voicing her opinions. Dear Papa taps into the almost forgotten art of letter correspondence in today's digital and e-mail world. Even though the book starts out slowly as readers are introduced to the characters, it picks up speed and has a strong ending as Isabelle finds direction and clarity during a tumultuous period. It's sure to be a hit with the popular "diary" book readers.-Hannah Hoppe, Miles City Public Library, MT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

February 23 Dear Papa, I'm sorry I wasn't nice in my last letter. I know you didn't die on purpose. I wish you were here to send me to my room for back talk. Aunt Jaye and Uncle Bernard never punish me. They think everything I do is cute. I'm nine and more than a half for pity's sake! I want to tell you about Mama's visit. It was so wonderful the first day. She hugged and hugged and hugged me. She did my hair and talked to me like she used to. She looked happy, Papa. Really. The girls came and the house was noisy and Ian and Ida and me made a big mess in my room with all the toys Aunt Jaye keeps in there. We ate sandwiches for lunch and played whist around the big table. I heard Mama laugh. Later we all went on a walk to the downtown of Zumbrota. Uncle Bernard opened up the bank even though it was a Saturday and gave us a tour. Charlie had to carry Ida most of the way, but he didn't mind. Ian and Ida and I slept in my room and Mama sat in there until we were all asleep. I slept all night without one dream. In the morning we all got spit and polished for church. We took up a whole pew. Afterwards we had roast and potatoes and Mama was different again. The brightness in her eyes and voice was gone and she crabbed at Ian when he dropped a biscuit on the floor. Then she just got up and put on her coat to leave. "Mama," I said. "I want to come home." "Isabelle, don't make this harder than it already is." "Mama," I said again. "I want to come home!" And then I started bawling like a big baby. Mama didn't come and wipe my tears off or ask me to quit crying. She just stood there like a woodcarving. "Isabelle, pull yourself together," Irma said. "Irma!" Inez said, and she came and tried to wipe off my tears but that made them come faster. "Girls, don't fight," Mama said in a bigger voice than I've heard her use in a long time. She got up and hugged each of us, but it was like an uncle hug, not a mother hug. Then she went out to the car and Irma buttoned up Ida and Ian and they all piled on laps and left. Since Mama is working all the time, the girls are away, and you're dead, it looks like it's up to me to solve the problem. Mama will be so proud. Love, Isabelle DEAR PAPA by Anne Ylvisaker. Copyright (c) 2002 by Anne Ylvisaker. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA. Excerpted from Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

February 23
Dear Papa,
I'm sorry I wasn't nice in my last letter. I know you didn't die on purpose. I wish you were here to send me to my room for back talk. Aunt Jaye and Uncle Bernard never punish me. They think everything I do is cute. I'm nine and more than a half for pity's sake!
I want to tell you about Mama's visit. It was so wonderful the first day. She hugged and hugged and hugged me. She did my hair and talked to me like she used to. She looked happy, Papa. Really. The girls came and the house was noisy and Ian and Ida and me made a big mess in my room with all the toys Aunt Jaye keeps in there. We ate sandwiches for lunch and played whist around the big table. I heard Mama laugh. Later we all went on a walk to the downtown of Zumbrota. Uncle Bernard opened up the bank even though it was a Saturday and gave us a tour. Charlie had to carry Ida most of the way, but he didn't mind. Ian and Ida and I slept in my room and Mama sat in there until we were all asleep. I slept all night without one dream.
In the morning we all got spit and polished for church. We took up a whole pew. Afterwards we had roast and potatoes and Mama was different again. The brightness in her eyes and voice was gone and she crabbed at Ian when he dropped a biscuit on the floor. Then she just got up and put on her coat to leave.
"Mama," I said. "I want to come home."
"Isabelle, don't make this harder than it already is."
"Mama," I said again. "I want to come home!" And then I started bawling like a big baby. Mama didn't come and wipe my tears off or ask me to quit crying. She just stood there like a woodcarving.
"Isabelle, pull yourself together," Irma said.
"Irma!" Inez said, and she came and tried to wipe off my tears but that made them come faster.
"Girls, don't fight," Mama said in a bigger voice than I've heard her use in a long time. She got up and hugged each of us, but it was like an uncle hug, not a mother hug. Then she went out to the car and Irma buttoned up Ida and Ian and they all piled on laps and left.
Since Mama is working all the time, the girls are away, and you're dead, it looks like it's up to me to solve the problem. Mama will be so proud.
Love, Isabelle
Dear Papa by Anne Ylvisaker. Copyright (c) 2002 by Anne Ylvisaker. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.