TENMILE, by Sandra Dallas, Sleeping Bear Press; Reprint edition, May 15, 2023, Paperback, $12.99 (ages 9-12)
A 12-year-old girl living in a remote Colorado mining town learns there’s a delicate balance in nature and life in Tenmile, by Sandra Dallas.
Life in 1880 Tenmile, Colorado, isn’t easy. But it’s all that 12-year-old Sissy Carlson knows. She’s lived here her whole life, watching her father, the local doctor, tend to the town’s citizens.
And while the mountain setting is gorgeous, Tenmile is a rough gold mining town. It often feels like there’s just a thin line between life and death. Mining is a hard job; men are hurt or even killed.
Sissy sees the same thin line between the haves and the have-nots as she assists her father in his practice, seeing firsthand the personal and not-always-private struggles of his patients.
Now that she’s older, Sissy is starting to think of the world beyond Tenmile and where she might fit in. What opportunities might she find if she could just get away? What kind of future does Tenmile offer, especially for a girl? —Synopsis provided by Sleeping Bear Press
Tenmile is author Sandra Dallas’ fifth book for middle readers, and like her previous books I’ve reviewed — Hardscrabble and Quilt Walk — the writing feels ageless. It will appeal just as much to adults as it will kids, although middle readers may get more out of it.
There’s no doubt that Dallas covers some tough topics — death, poverty, an abusive parent. She tackles these themes with such skill that even the grizzly task of a 12-year-old sewing up wounds or delivering someone’s baby aren’t particularly shocking. And the foreshadowing leading up to the abusive parent is clear, careful and well informed.
Sissy is a strong, smart protagonist who has the opportunity to see how people from all walks of life live. She grows throughout, and you truly care about her by the time you finish.
Tenmile is an engaging historical middle-grade novel that will appeal to a large cross-section of readers and especially to those with an interest in the American West.
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