Cover image for Messenger
Schwartz, Virginia Frances.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, [2002]

Physical Description:
vii, 277 pages ; 22 cm
Based on the lives of the author's mother and grandmother, tells the story of a widowed Croatian immigrant trying to keep her family together in the mining towns of Ontario in the 1920s and 1930s.
Reading Level:
640 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.6 9.0 65222.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.5 15 Quiz: 31987 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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Material Type
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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Set in mining boomtowns in the years between the two world wars, this is the story of a girl's determination to find her voice and herself.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Schwartz (Send One Angel Down) draws on family stories for this uneven novel about a formidable widow, the daughter of Croatian immigrants, who struggles to raise her three children in Canadian mining towns between the world wars. The woman's daughter (both are named Frances) narrates the tale, which she begins from the womb, when her dying father directs her to anchor her grief-stricken mother to her two brothers: "I am the one who was sent. My father's messenger. He who could no longer stay, sent me instead. For his was the voice that told me early to go to her. To awaken her." The first section proves strongly atmospheric, with its evocations of communication between the living and the dead, the mother's battle between despair and survival, and distinctive Croatian customs and superstitions. Schwartz creates something of a narrative disconnect, however, in abandoning most of these strains early on and not picking up on them again until a climactic scene near the conclusion. While the author devotes her attention primarily to the mother and daughter, she develops them unequally: She compellingly presents Frances the mother's steely determination and work ethic, yet adopts a detached style for Frances the narrator ("the keeper of the stories"). The girl comes across as more of a lens than a character, which, unfortunately, diminishes her impact and undermines the storytelling. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-This novel takes place predominantly in Canada's coal-mining territory and ends at the beginning of World War II. Frances begins her story in 1923, when her father died in a mining accident and she was born, and narrates it in chapters divided by milestones in her Croatian family's life. She lives in a boarding house filled with her two brothers and scores of extended family members in addition to the paying customers, the miners. Poverty and worry about injury to the mine workers are a constant presence. Frequent allusions to mystical occurrences and visions in the child's imagination are woven into her story. Descriptions are rich; for example, Frances depicts awaking to "-deep dark. Four A.M. When the dreams lay upon me, thick as vapor-." Such depictions are plentiful and will help define the story for readers. Accurate historical references describing transportation, housekeeping, current events, and daily living set the story firmly in the first half of the 20th century. Schwartz's novel emphasizes the joys of a closely knit family, no matter what their economic status.-Susan Cooley, Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.