Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance

Book review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance Book Poster Image
History, adventure, and women's rights for 10+.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Mable learns to stand up for what she believes.


Description of president shot and killed; women working in poor conditions -- arms immersed in boiling water, working on feet for 10+ hours, women not allowed to talk or punished. Teacher uses strap for disciplining students. Women knocked over while protesting and arrested.


Mild flirtations between boys and girls, first kisses, hands brushing against each other. Girl watches grown-ups kiss passionately.


Written as it would have been spoken in 1901.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book takes place in 1901 in rural Sellerton, Ontario. In the course of the novel, President McKinley is shot and killed, which causes Mable to reflect on her own feelings over her father's death. Also, there's a description of women being exploited as workers at a cheesemaking factory, their ensuing protests, and their arrests. One woman is pushed, hits her head, and becomes unconscious. There are also very innocent flirtations between girls and boys in class. This book serves as a enjoyable introduction to turn-of-the-century history, fictionalized for ages 10+.

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Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

Loving this book!

Mable Riley has caught me in her web of twists and turns and won't let go. The book was fun to read, and I couldn't put it down. Even though it is set... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mable and her sister Viola move to Sellerton, Ontario in 1901 when Viola is hired to work as the local teacher. Mable is to support her sister and help in the classroom with the younger children. They board at a dairy farm and quickly become topics of conversation in town. Some have reservations about a young female teacher. While her sister is pious, Mable is adventuresome and becomes friendly with a suffragette who lives by herself. When she learns of this woman's plan to help the exploited female workers at a local cheese factory, she wants to help, too.

Is it any good?

Told through a diary, letters, poems, and a character-written story, MABLE RILEY presents a strong, likeable character. Though the story is told in old-fashioned prose, Mable remains very relatable to tweens today. Like many 14-year-old girls, Mable is still learning about herself, her world, and how to face her problems -- all this making for an interesting story for young readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this period in history. How were the roles of women different? Would you have liked to go to school during that time?

Book details

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