The Ornament Tree

From the book:

"Mr. Harris appeared in the doorway, well-groomed and freshly shaved. 'Good evening, ladies, gentlemen,' he said, smiling as he looked around. He tucked his thumbs neatly into his vest pockets and stuck out his chest. 'Sorry I was late, but business held me up. Sally, will you set a place for me? Right here will do, at the head of the table.'

"Everyone stared. Mr. Harris was aware of their shock and he took full advantage of it. As Sally, white-lipped, put a plate and silverware in front of him, he looked around the room, smiling, drawing out the suspense.

"At last he said, 'I am Jacob Harris. I have just returned from Nicaragua, yes, indeed.' He rubbed his hands together. 'Opportunity lies to the south, gentlemen. Riches beyond belief, riches that spring from careful planning and cooperation with the right people.'

"'What do you mean, cooperation?' Mr. Johnson exclaimed. 'Those people down there aren't white. You don't cooperate with savages, you tell them what to do!'

"'Yes, indeed,' Mr. Harris said, nodding briskly. He grabbed the fork Sally put down next to him and stabbed a large chicken leg. 'We see eye to eye, sir.'

"'And I do, too!' Mr. Younger called out enthusiastically from the parlor. 'Eye to eye.'

"'It's that blind fellow I saw earlier!' Mr. Harris cried, turning his chair to face the door to the parlor. 'I recognize his voice!'

"'Oh, be still my heart,' Mr. Younger said. "I am known even among the yahoos. What can be next?'

"'What the Sam Hill is he talking about?' Mr. Johnson demanded, looking around the table, his head lowered and his eyes bulging.

"'Chhicken, anyone?' Cousin Audra asked. smiling gently. 'Mrs. Marshall cooks such lovely chicken.'

"Bonnie saw Clare in the doorway, staring at her father, with her fingers pressed against her mouth. Her face turned from white to pink. At last, she said, 'Father? You're my father?'

"'"What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem?"' Mr. Younger intoned morbidly from the parlor.

"'Who is that fellow?' Mr. Harris demanded.

"'Bonnie, run and ask Mrs. Marshall to serve dessert now,' Cousin Audra said, smiling as if nothing was wrong. 'I'm certain it will be delicious.'

"'Yum,' Mr. Younger said from the parlor. 'Delicious.'"

******************************************************

Bonnie Shaster, fourteen years old and recently orphaned, has happily come to live with her mother's family in Seattle, never expecting to find such chaos. Her charming, hapless relatives have been forced to take in gentlemen boarders to make ends meet. The progressive ladies crusade for causes like women's suffrage, yet they are quite inept at managing the household. Money is always a problem and the boarders are frequently at odds with one another and with the household of women, not one of whom knows how to cook. Yet when handsome young boarder Carson Younger, a blind veteran of the Great War, sarcastically warns Bonnie to run for her life, she knows she isn't going anywhere.

After escaping from the misery of living with her disagreeable aunt, Bonnie has found a home where she is happy and where she is valued - often for taking charge of problems that threaten to become disasters. And as she ties her wishes on scraps of paper to the family's "ornament tree," Bonnie dares to believe that her new home and the people in it are the beginning of a new life.

******************************************************AALA Best Book, CBC Not Just for Children Anymore, NY Public Library Books for the Teen Age, Society of School Librarians International Honor Book, Virginia Library Association Jefferson Cup Award


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