One Year in Coal Harbor

One Year in Coal Harborby Polly Horvath

215 pages for intermediate and middle readers looking for a place to fit in and feel good.

Last year after I finally got around to reading Everything With a Waffle I decided to add Polly Horvath to my “favorite authors” list.  Her writing has strong characters deeply connected to place and I like that.  I loved Primrose Squarp – spunky, independent, creative and resilient. (Love the guinea pig scene – both at The Girl on the Red Swing and in the school guidance counselor’s office.  It’s still making me snicker.)  I was glad that things worked out happily for Primrose, but I was sad to leave her behind. So you can only imagine how happy I was to learn Polly Horvath had written One Year in Coal Harbor – more time with Primrose, Uncle Jack, Miss Bowser and Bert and Evie.

Primrose is at home with her mom and dad and thankful for everything she has.  She is trying to think of how she can help Miss Bowser and Uncle Jack spend more time together now that Miss Honeycut is gone.  She’s busy with Mallomar and collecting recipes, though what she’d really like is a good friend her age.  Primrose learned that people treat you differently when you’re in foster care.  It’s as if they think it’s your fault or that you have something that might rub off on them if they get too close.  Primrose could hang out with Eleanor, but she wasn’t really much of a friend.  They were together because neither of them had anyone else, not because it was fun.  Then Ked came along.  He was foster kid staying with Evie and Bert in Coal Harbor for a while.  He and Primrose get along right from the start. Ked is interested in the peaceful quiet of Jackson Road.  He’s a kind gentle soul, who seems to know what to do to make others feel appreciated.  For instance, he’d never tell Evie he doesn’t really like mini-marshmallows, nor would he ignore the seer though he is unkempt and unusual.

Just as Ked arrives so does Dan Sneild.  His arrival seems to upset the balance.  Miss Bowser and Uncle Jack argue all the time.  Primrose’s plans seem to make it worse. Logging comes to Mendolay Mountain – a clear cut and nothing will be the same again.  Ked is going fishing with her dad all the time.  Eleanor seems to like the cat poet more and more.  Nothing is going right and Primrose is feeling alone and angry.  She forgets to tell others how glad she is to have them as her friends, and then Ked’s dad comes for him.  He moves north and Primrose doesn’t have the opportunity to say good-bye.  She doesn’t want to anyway.  She’s too angry.  But then there’s a news report telling of a boy who’d been abandoned on the ice.  No one knew where he was – though it was said no one could survive the cold.

Caught in chaos, surrounded by guilt and grief, Primrose has to figure out what to do.  Her Uncle Jack says, “although we can’t keep undeserved bad things from happening, we do have control in making undeserved good things happen.”  She has to find her way through the hurt and happiness, change and tradition to find a place where she feels satisfied that she has done all she can to make the world a good place.

Read One Year in Coal Harbor to find out how Primrose meets that challenge.  Along they way you might learns some things that will work for you – you might even find a good recipe too!