HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Freckled and Fourteen
Author: Viola Rowe
Illustrator: Jacqueline Tomes
Publisher: Scholastic Book Services, republished in 1974
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rowe, Viola. Freckled and Fourteen (published in 1965 by William Morrow and Company; republished in 1968 by Scholastic Book Services, a division of Scholastic Magazines Inc., New York City, NY). Fourteen year old Rosalind Eastman, known as Rusty because of her red hair and freckles which she despises, lives in Melville with her father Carl, who is the high school physical education teacher and coach, her mother Emily, and four brothers, the handsome Alan, a sophomore at fifteen going on sixteen who has been a star athlete, ten year old Gordon, and eight year old twins Peter and Paul. Her best friend is Geraldine Jones, known as Jeri. As Rusty transitions from Sandburg Junior High to high school, she faces several problems, besides her hair and face. First, she has always been somewhat of a tomboy who loved playing ball, but now there is more pressure on her to be a “proper girl.”
Also, all of a sudden, Alan, whom she adores, gives up sports. He says that he needs more time to study, but Rusty thinks that it has something to do with his new interest in girls. And suddenly Jeri begins to act silly about boys. Then Rusty discovers a family secret about herself that seems to change everything. What is the secret? What is the real reason why Alan is behaving so strangely? Will Rusty ever find a special friend whom she can count on? And can she do anything about her red hair and freckles? When I first picked this book up, I figured it was just a “teeny-bopper” type of shallow romance, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it has its share of public school sort of boyfriend/girlfriend activities with dating, dancing, and “kissing games.” Gordon, at age ten, is already getting calls from girls—asking him to marry them, no less.
However, aside from these items, there are several underlying positive elements concerning the need for feelings of self-worth, being accepted by one’s peers, and how to deal with sibling rivalry, so it is a relatively good coming of age story that will appeal primarily to girls (Rusty gets her first bra). Other than a few common euphemisms (gee, gosh, darn), there are no language issues. The Eastman family says grace before meals and goes to church, and Rusty herself prays. Of course, conflict that is common in most families, especially larger ones, occurs, but everything seems to work out for the best in the end. SPOILER ALERT: One thing the book does illustrate well is something that was stressed to us in the classes which we took before adopting our boys, and that is adoptive parents should always let their kids know from the very earliest that they are adopted.