REVIEW: Blue Skies by Anne Bustard
For fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Louisiana’s Way Home, this heartwarming novel tells the story of ten-year-old Glory Bea as she prepares for a miracle of her very own—her father’s return home.
Glory Bea Bennett knows that miracles happen in Gladiola, Texas, population 3,421. After all, her grandmother—the best matchmaker in the whole county—is responsible for thirty-nine of them.
Now, Glory Bea needs a miracle of her own.
The war ended three years ago, but Glory Bea’s father never returned home from the front in France. Glory Bea understands what Mama and Grams and Grandpa say—that Daddy died a hero on Omaha Beach—yet deep down in her heart, she believes Daddy is still out there.
When the Gladiola Gazette reports that one of the boxcars from the Merci Train (the “thank you” train)—a train filled with gifts of gratitude from the people of France—will be stopping in Gladiola, she just knows daddy will be its surprise cargo.
But miracles, like people, are always changing, until at last they find their way home.
Dear Ms. Bustard,
There is so much to like about this book. Young Glory Bea Bennett is a character I’ll remember for a long time. Oh, not because she’s perfect – Glory Bea can be a trial at times – but because she seems like a real person and acts like a juvenile. Then there are her family members, her friends, and the small, friendly town of Gladiola, Texas that surround her as she waits for the miracle that she just knows is coming.
Gladiola is the small town you want to be from and live in. Everyone does know everyone – when Grams goes to the market, it always takes extra time because she has to “hello” everyone there. People there care about each other. Glory Bea knows her daddy was “lost” on Omaha Beach but deep down, she hangs onto hope. Why, there was a man in the nearby town of Tula who hit his head and got amnesia for years before he remembered who he was and came home. Daddy could have been injured, lost his dog tags, and in a hospital until now. Anything is possible and her beloved grams and grandpa have always taught her to think positive and hope for the best.
Then two things happen – it’s announced that the Merci Train boxcar for the state of Texas, sent by the French people in gratitude for American help after WWII, will pass through Gladiola and daddy’s war buddy friend finally arrives to fulfill his promise to her daddy to go and see the Bennett family. Glory Bea just knows her daddy is on his way home with that train and because of that, she’s got to stop her mamma from making a big mistake with Randall Horton.
I loved seeing Glory Bea and her family. From their loving relationship, I could see how George Bennett was raised and how he became the man his daughter would long for to return home and the rest of the family mourned. He loved surprises, sang his daughter awake every morning and loved to play hide-and-seek with her but also was a normal, mischievous boy who, along with his father, played some practical jokes on his mother that she still remembered with a smile.
Gladiola comes alive with small town life after World War II. Glory Bea’s best friend has a crush on neighbor Ben which Glory Bea tries to help with, everyone is on a party line and has their own “ring,” the town might be small but is filled with enthusiasm and patriotism. The samples of the town newspaper take you back to a simpler time and Glory Bea’s last letter made me smile while blinking back a few tears. In fact I was crying quite a bit at the end. This is a charming book of second chances, seeing what is before you, and the extraordinary love with which we remember those dear to us. B+
I love Kate DiCamillo so thanks for this!
@Tanya: Oh, my library has lots of DiCamillo books. Which are the best to start with?
Jayne, there are a lot – for me personally I love Because of Winn Dixie (and I love the movie version of it, too, because I can’t resist Jeff Daniels as a dad), The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is more for younger readers and is illustrated but it is so sweet it made me cry, and I do love Raymie Nightingale as well. In these times there are far worse ways to pass the time than reading one of her books. Enjoy.
@Tanya: Thanks for a starting point. They actually have so many of her books that I was a bit stumped as to where to begin.