A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a tale of a family adapting to Dad's job loss during the Great Depression. There is a clear, age-appropriate description of why the economy is suffering and frank depictions via photographs and dialog of the effects of the national financial downturn. A sickly boy is treated with derision but proves hardier than he seems. In 1930s America, fathers work and mothers stay home.
What's the story?
Written by American Girl serial author Valerie Tripp, Meet Kit follows the adventures of tyro journalist Kit Kittredge, who with her best friend Ruthie passes the time by writing their own micro-newspaper. She's aware that fathers in their community have lost jobs and are taking the drastic measure of moving away to seek employment, but Kit is nonetheless shocked when her own beloved father joins the ranks of those seeking work. Her family copes, thanks to Mother's idea about a way to bring in more money that requires in the Kittredge family to sacrifice.
Is it any good?
Kit's an inherently likable character, upbeat and friendly but by no means perfect, as exemplified when she resents the boarders who have moved into her home. Snippets of her home-typed paper are endearingly misspelled but as sincere as her affections for her family and friends. The author has done an excellent job describing the roots of the Depression in language appropriate for readers 8-12, and the historical photos and notes at the end of the book will deepen the understanding of young history buffs. As Kit begrudgingly adapts to her family's new economic status, she searches for the silver lining in the situation. Her positive approach to adversity is a good lesson for kids in any situation.
When MEET KIT: AN AMERICAN GIRL 1934 was written in 2000, the economy was expanding at a record pace, and the travails of a little girl during the Great Depression probably seemed quaint. Reviewing the book in 2008 in the midst of a housing crisis and rising gas prices, it reads more like a cautionary tale of how ingenuity and optimism can help overcome the inevitable challenges of life in a declining economy. Even so, the main character's pluckiness will have readers rooting for her to prevail.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the Great Depression of the 1930s is similar to the current economic situation, and how it differs. Do any of your relatives have memories of life during the Depression? How do you think you would cope if your parents took in boarders to earn extra money?