Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Misadventures of Maude March

Looking for a rip-roarin' adventure? Then give Audrey Couloumbis' The Misadventures of Maude March a whirl.

Eleven-year-old Sallie March's life is turned upside down when her aunt and guardian is shot on the wild streets of 1869 Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sallie and her older sister Maude are taken in by a "kindly" pastor and are quickly put to work minding numerous children, cooking, and cleaning for the family. When an elderly suitor requests Maude's hand in marriage, the girls cut off their hair, steal a couple of horses, and head off for Independence, MO in search of long-lost Uncle Arlen.

On the road to Independence, the girls run into all sorts of trouble—snowstorms, outlaws, and wild animals. Most significantly, they run into Marion Hardley, the man who shot their aunt. Hardley goes by the name Joe Harden, who happens to be the outlaw hero of Sallie's favorite popular novels. Despite the fact Hardley orphaned the girls, they soon warm up to him: he's a charmer and experienced on the road. Unfortunately, he robs a bank in Des Moines and Maude, who followed Hardley into the bank, is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She becomes "Mad" Maude March, outlaw of the day and media darling.

The Misadventures of Maude March is more than an adventure story. Couloumbis plays with notions of fact and fiction in the media, literature, and life. Sallie, influenced by her favorite Western novels, attributes more to Marion Hardley as Joe Harden than he deserves. Maude becomes a media darling (to her disadvantage) until someone more glamorous commits a crime. I really enjoyed reading an adventure set in my current neck of the woods and highly recommend The Misadventures of Maude March to readers aged 8 and up. **

Check out Random House's Misadventures website, complete with information, activities, and historical information. You can even make your own WANTED poster here!


**(I must admit, however, that one scene in the novel really troubled me, but I suppose its violence keeps with the 1869 Wild West.)