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The Farmerettes

by Gisela Tobien Sherman

During the summer of 1943, while the Second World War rages in Europe, five teenage “city girls” play their part in the war effort by joining the Ontario Farm Services as “farmerettes,” taking over agricultural duties from the young men who have left to join the fight. Told from the alternating perspectives of the five girls and Jean, the farmer’s daughter, this coming-of-age story relates how each girl defies convention and expectations in her own way. From Helene, the serious and dependable one who sends her wages home to support her single mother, to Isabel, whose thoughts are filled with worries for her fiancé fighting in Europe, most of the main characters are unique and well developed. These girls are down-to-earth and relatable, and readers will root for them throughout both their triumphs and missteps.

The FarmerettesOne of the farmerettes, however, is disappointingly shortchanged. Only a few brief sections are written from the point of view of “X,” a repressed lesbian who hopes that a summer in the countryside will “cure” her of her sexual attraction to girls. The other characters barely interact with X, and her storyline feels underserved by the lack of attention afforded it.

This underdeveloped storyline aside, The Farmerettes is an inspiring piece of historical fiction. The characters are transformed over their summer together, growing from sheltered teens to confident, self-aware young women. As is fitting for a wartime tale, the story doesn’t shy away from tough issues. The girls deal with death, heartbreak, family hardships, and guilt over being safe in Canada while their loved ones are risking their lives abroad. Through her thoughtful writing, Gisela Tobien Sherman gives young readers a clear and captivating picture of how war changes everyone, from those who are fighting in it to those who are left behind.


Reviewer: Suzanne Gardner

Publisher: Second Story Press


Price: $12.95

Page Count: 220 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-92758-364-7

Released: April

Issue Date: May 2015

Categories: Children and YA Fiction

Age Range: 13-18