Stealing Mt. Rushmore

Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2020. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250155009.
Gr 3-6–Nellie’s life is upended during the summer of 1974. Her mother has run off with the money her family had saved to visit Mt. Rushmore, and her devastated father is distracted by the political upheaval caused by President Nixon’s looming impeachment. His behavior is increasingly violent and despondent. Nellie finds comfort and safety in her daily horoscope and “Nancy Drew” mysteries. She devises several creative plans with her friend Maya to raise the money herself, hoping the trip to South Dakota will reunite her splintered family. Inspired by the women’s liberation movement, she begins to question her role in her home and her agency in her family. The author presumes a certain amount of knowledge about the politics of the 1970s and uses terminology that might be lost on younger readers, such as “commies” and “subpoena.” The author’s note at the end provides helpful historical and contextual information, but arrives too late. Furthermore, the narrative introduces several topics without providing opportunities for Nellie to work through and understand them in a meaningful and developmentally appropriate way: racism, body image, marital conflict, and alcohol-fueled physical violence, to name a few. This book includes some mild language.
VERDICT A family drama that attempts to navigate the complexities of politics, change, and disappointment, but unfortunately misses the mark with poor execution and character development.

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