Nellie’s Promise by Valerie Tripp
Recommended Ages 7 to 10
Each month I hold an American Girl Book Club at our library. During our time together 12 girls and I snack while we discuss a book. Then we create an art project that ties into something that has happened in the book. This month we talked about Nellie’s Promise. I read the book and composed questions that we discussed informally during the class. Since Nellie came from the working class and was now living with the upper class, we talked about those changes in Nellie’s life. We looked at children’s lives back in 1906 compared to how the girls live their lives now. Most of the girls read the book and had some interesting comments to make. The time goes by so quickly. I especially love hearing their thoughts about the story.
Nellie’s Promise is about an orphan girl around 10 years-old with two younger preschool sisters Jenny and Bridget. They are from an Irish immigrant family that is very poor and hard-working. Before her mother dies, Nellie promises that she will always take care of her sisters. Recently they lived in a terrible orphanage. Nellie was about to be sent away on a train out west. She was going to be separated from her sisters until her best friend Samantha Parkington saves them. Samantha’s Aunt Cornelia and Uncle Gard Edwards decide to bring the girls to live with them. The Edwards family is very well off and Nellie can’t believe that they will continue living with them forever. One day on her way back to the Edward’s home, Nellie is accosted by her Uncle Mike O’Malley. He wants the girls back to earn money for him even though he left them alone. His neglect was the reason they were in the orphanage. Nellie is very frightened and gets away from him.
The Edwards treat the girls as if they were their own children. They give them all the benefits of living with the upper class. Nellie feels uncomfortable and undeserving. She strives to find a way to support the girls and be safe from her Uncle. A series of misunderstandings happen between Samantha and Nellie making the situation more complicated. The story hinges on how and if Nellie will save her sisters and herself. Our discussions dealt with handling problems and trusting that parents and guardians are there to help. Despite the fact that Nellie lived in a different time, the girls could relate to some of the problems that Nellie faced. We all learned something and the girls enjoyed making the craft! Information on our craft will be part two of my article on January’s American Girl Book Club.