Originally a Junior Literary Guild selection, Bank Street College choice for Best Books for Children, and winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Book
In 1888 Kansas City, Missouri, twelve-year-old Jocey Royal, who has a cleft lip, no longer goes to school. Jocey believes that she will never have a friend, that others will always chase and make fun of her, as they did at school before she quit.
Since her mother died and her father became a drifter, Jocey has lived with her grandmother, a washerwoman. When she's not helping Gram with laundry, she fills her lonely life with books and dreams. Mostly she dreams of Kansas and the farm her father abandoned there. On the farm, she could live in isolation--free from torment. Eventually she persuades Gram to go with her to Kansas.
Life on the farm is not, however, what Jocey expected. Hard work was no surprise. But there are neighbors and traveling salesmen who cannot be avoided. Then there's Gram, who seems determined to be sickly. Jocey wonders if she made a terrible mistake, until she discovers that any girl can have friends, if she will open herself to others. And maybe even her cleft lip can be helped.
In Jocelyn Belle Royal, author Irene Bennett Brown has created a girl who will both tug at readers' hearts and leave them cheering. Before the Lark offers a clear-eyed view of the past, especially the challenges faced by women and girls with limited opportunities. At the same time, the book explores emotional issues about self-worth and family ties that still resonate today. A wonderful read! --Kathleen Ernst, American Girl author
Life for girls like Jocey was particularly difficult. Yet Before the Lark's Missouri and Kansas of the late 1880s should not be so unfamiliar . . . no matter where we live in the United States. [Jocey's] is a story of steadfastness, persistence, and faith--of an abiding belief that even though life was hard, a girl with strength of character could make things better for herself and for her family. And these are the elements that make any story--from any time or place--speak to us all. --Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, from the foreword
A deeply moving story of tenderness and grit. --St. Louis Dispatch
Irene Bennett Brown is the author of nine books for children, several of which are set in the Midwest.