Cover image for
The wonder of Charlie Anne
Fusco, Kimberly Newton.



Personal Author:
First edition.
Physical Description:
pages cm
In a 1930s Massachusetts farm town torn by the Depression, racial tension, and other hardships, Charlie Anne and her black next-door neighbor Phoebe form a friendship that begins to transform their community.
Reading Level:
970 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.7 8.0 138694.
Lexile Number:
970 Lexile.
Pub Date:
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.


Home Location
Material Type
Shelf Number
Kid/Juvenile Fiction Kids book FUSCO
Kid/Juvenile Fiction Kids book FUSCO
Kid/Juvenile Fiction Kids book FUSCO
Kid/Juvenile Fiction Kids book FUSCO

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Charlie Anne is devastated when her father must go north to build roads after the Depression hits. She and her siblings are left with their rigid cousin, Mirabel, and a farm full of chores. The only solace Charlie Anne finds is by the river, where the memory of her mother is strongest.
Then her neighbor Old Mr. Jolly brings home a new wife, Rosalyn, who shows up in pants-- pants! --the color of red peppers. With her arrives Phoebe, a young African American girl who has also lost her mother. Phoebe is smart and fun and the perfect antidote to Charlie Anne's lonely days. The girls soon forge a friendship and learn from each other in amazing ways.
But when hatred turns their town ugly, it's almost more than they can bear. Now it's up to Charlie Anne and Phoebe to prove that our hearts are always able to expand.

Author Notes

Kimberly Newton Fusco is the author of Tending to Grace, which the Denver Post called "a stunning story." It received multiple starred reviews and many accolades, and received the American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award for its empathetic portrayal of a young girl who stutters. It was also an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, a Booklist Top 10 First Novel for Youth, an IRA Notable Book, and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Before becoming a novelist, Ms. Fusco was an award-winning reporter and editor for the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Ms. Fusco lives in Foster, Rhode Island, with her husband and their four children. You can visit her on the Web at

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Drudgery cuts to the bone in this Depression-era tale, as Charlie Anne struggles to hang heavy laundry and muck out the outhouse. Hard-hearted Mirabel, with her endless list of chores, came to care for the family when Charlie's mother died, and it seems all of the fun has gone out of life. Then Papa and older brother Thomas head north to build roads and send home some New Deal money. Bereft, Charlie mentally communicates with her dead mother for support and clings to her beloved farm animals to stave off loneliness. When her neighbor Mr. Jolly takes an intriguing new wife, Rosalyn, with an African American daughter, Charlie's world slowly brightens. Rosalyn has bold ideas and works hard to open a school as well as the minds of the provincial, bluntly racist, unaccepting neighbors. The town turns around a little too miraculously, perhaps, but this is a poignant tale of fighting odds and struggling to find one's strengths.--O'Malley, Anne Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-When Charlie Anne's mother dies, her cousin Mirabel arrives to take charge of her, her siblings, and their household. But the woman's unremitting chore assignments and insistence on reading The Charm of Fine Manners send Charlie Anne to the barn, the fields, the river, and her mother's gravesite to escape. Papa takes her older brother up north to try to earn money working on the roads, and Mirabel sends younger brother Peter to stay with relatives in Boston, leaving Charlie Anne even more inclined to befriend their new neighbors, the exotic pants-wearing Rosalyn and her ward, Phoebe, an African-American girl. The painful poverty and bigotry of the Depression era set the stage for Charlie Anne's gradually increasing awareness of the impact and unfairness of prejudice and her power to make changes in the world and her own circumstances. The girl's vinegar pie appears throughout the book as a symbol of her value to the family and her abilities, even as Mirabel's own growth is reflected in her slow willingness to acknowledge Charlie Anne's skill and her acceptance of Phoebe. Each character is distinct and adds flavor, but it's Charlie Anne's voice that resonates as she confronts both the hardships and unfairness of life, yet finds ways to change things for the better.-Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Go do this, the new mama tells me, and I do it, just because.   Look in that cupboard because maybe there's something in there, maybe a mouse. Or maybe not, maybe it's just a shadow from that old pee pot in there, the new mama isn't sure. But I better do it, just because.   I know just because. Just because means I am a girl, and a girl needs to know about things, like keeping whites from colors in the washbucket and why you sweep before you mop, and about keeping your legs crossed all the time and how to rub a skinny little chest with Vicks while you're wiping a nose. Two things at once, that's what you do. Keep your cow from running in the road at the same time you're trying to get all these peas shelled for supper. And do be quiet while the new mama talks, on and on.   "You better listen when I'm talking because I'm not going to say it twice, Charlie Anne. Put on some beans, and why don't you mix up some biscuits, nice and high like your papa likes them, and how come these underpants aren't ironed right? They're rough as shingles. Don't you listen to a thing I say?"   I turn and look as far as I can see. No, ma'am. The new buttercups bloomed this morning. Can't you hear them? They are singing, and I can hear their tiny voices calling out to me, and the bees are buzzing inside that apple tree so loud I can hardly think about the laundry that still needs hanging.   But the loudest voice is the river that races right across our fields. It says, Hurry, Charlie Anne, hurry . It says it all the time.     This is how we got so many babies around here.   One morning when I am small I walk out to check on our cow, Anna May, and nestled up against her is a new little calf with eyes as dark as a full jar of molasses. I pull my milk stool over and sit and watch Anna May and how happy she is nuzzling her first baby calf and I get to thinking about how I would like to have little babies in the house for me to play with so I will have more than just Thomas, who is too old, and Ivy, who tells on me all the time. So I pray to the angels that they will bring my mama a baby. I pray awfully hard because Anna May's calf is so gosh darn cute and he just about splits my heart like an old melon and before I know it we have two babies in our house, split, splat. First Peter and then before I know it another baby, Birdie, who will not eat anything but biscuits, blackberry jam and lemon drops. Mama gets all tired and worn out from her new babies and she gets a cross look when I ask if she wants to go to our favorite spot by the river.   My prayers keep on strong as rock because, before I know it, there's another baby, the one who takes Mama straight to heaven as soon as she is born. I stop praying to the angels after that. Prayers are powerful things.     After lunch I stomp outside because the new mama says I have to go get all the laundry I just hung up. It is going to rain and I have to take it all down and hang it in the barn. I don't want to take down everything I already hung up. The sun will dry it all over again tomorrow, and besides, I want to go to the river, I tell her. I have already been doing chores since I woke up. The new mama tells me to get the laundry or else.   The new mama is the cousin Mirabel from two towns over. Papa did not ask her, she just showed up one day after the funeral with her suitcases, all strapped up tight, and her shoes that snap when she walks. After Mama left us, Papa walked around like a horse kicked him in the belly, so he did not say much when Mirabel told Peter and Birdie to move up to the attic with Ivy and me. Since Thomas was already fifteen, he could sleep in the barn. I asked why couldn't I do that. Why couldn't I sleep with Anna May and our chickens, Minnie and Olympia and Bea, instead of Peter, who still wets the bed. Mirabel told me right then and there that I was going to learn some manners, or else. None of us like Mirabel, me especially. I think she has her eyes on Papa in a bad way.   I stomp outside.   Actually, I am afraid of me dying from all my chores. I reach up and check my heart. It is all skittering and I sit down on the clothes basket and let it rest. Mirabel tells me not to worry, I am strong as an ox. I hear the screen door bang, and before I know it, she is out on the porch with her hands on her hips yelling for me to help her with the lunch. I jump up and start pulling down all the laundry I already hung up, and when I do, I hear the river calling me again: Hurry, Charlie Anne, hurry .  Excerpted from The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.