DRAWING OUTSIDE THE LINES: A JULIA MORGAN NOVEL, by Susan J. Austin, SparkPress, Oct. 18, 2022, Paperback $12.95 (ages 10 and up)
Drawing Outside the Lines, by Susan J. Austin, is an imagined childhood of pioneering architect Julia Morgan, and it is excellent.
Meet Julia Morgan. In 1883, eleven-year-old Julia visits the amazing new Brooklyn Bridge — an experience that ignites within her a small but persistent flame. Someday, she decides, she too will build an astounding structure.
Growing up in horse-and-buggy Oakland, Julia enjoys daring fence walks, climbing the tallest trees, and constantly testing her mother’s patience with her lack of interest in domestic duties and social events.
At a time when “brainy” girls are the object of ridicule, Julia excels in school and consistently outsmarts her ornery brothers — but she has an even greater battle ahead. When she enrolls at university to study engineering, the male students taunt her, and the professors belittle her.
Through it all, however, Julia holds on to her dream of becoming an architect. She faces each challenge head-on, firmly standing up to those who believe a woman’s place is in the home. Fortunately, the world has yet to meet anyone like the indomitable Miss Morgan. —Synopsis provided by SparkPress
Drawing Outside the Lines is a lovely coming-of-age novel that transports readers to Victorian Oakland. It is apparent from the beginning that Julia is someone special. Julia’s voice is bright and clear. In just a few pages, you get a true sense of who Julia is and how she fits into societal expectations.
Author Susan J. Austin’s prose is smooth and inviting. She expertly sets each scene, dropping readers onto a bridge, into a classroom and onto the streets of northern California. From clothing to food to architecture, everything is spot on.
Though Austin has imagined Julia’s childhood, the author has utilized historical documents and key historical events to blend nonfiction with fiction to create a plausible story.
And what a story.
Drawing Outside the Lines feels familiar and new at the same time. There’s a warmth to it that invites you in and a compelling story that makes you want to stay.
Drawing Outside the Lines is geared toward older middle readers (ages 10 and up), but is so well written that it should appeal to young adult and adult readers. It’s lovely.
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