Elizabeth has come with her sister and pregnant mother to live with her s in Philadelphia while her father is serving in World War II. The grandparents are people of wealth and respect in the community. Grandmother is severe and unyielding. Elizabeth's mother is kind and loving but it is Tatie, the black maid of the household who is Elizabeth's rock during this time and Tatie's grandson, Charles, becomes Elizabeth's best friend. It is Charles with whom she shares her fears and excitements. Together Charles and Elizabeth, who is coming down with pneumonia, go off to the forbidden and scary woods at the end of town which they believe is inhabited by giant turtles. Charles refuses to leave the woods with Elizabeth and she, overwhelmed by her sickness, abandons him there to his tragic end.
This book can be used in conjunction with other books about WWII to find out what life was like in the United States while the war was going on. The War in this novel is very much in the background, but the war that's fought in the novel is a personal one. Their next door neighbors are viewed with suspicion because of their German heritage. There is racial prejudice and even murder and its attendant guilt and suspicion in this taut, memorable book. It might be interesting to find out if Ms. Lowry ever lived in Philadelphia.
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In Times Past
by Carol Hurst and Rebecca Otis
Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8.
Enliven your US History curriculum!
Teach US History using great kids books.