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Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories

by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Peter McCarty

Published by Dial, 1998
53 pages
ISBN: 0-8037-2154-4

Ages 8 - 11

Mary Breckenridge began the Frontier Nursing Service to provide medical care and hope for the people living in the rural Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky during the 1920s. She began with just a few nurses and her own passion and determination. Over the years, the Service grew as more nurses joined Mary and her dream of a hospital/clinic was realized. A few years later there were six such clinics, and many stories of lives that were touched and changed. Rosemary Wells tells three such stories in a work of short fiction for young readers that is deftly drawn from real people and events. Three compelling voices a young boy whose father is injured in a logging accident, a 19-year-old nurse who comes from Scotland to join Mary's service, and a small girl who is grieving the death of her mother chronicle events in the early history of the Frontier Nursing Service. Mary Breckenridge saw the dignity of the lives of the people she served, but also saw great need, and she answered that need through acts both great and small. She and the other dedicated women rode the isolated mountain paths on horseback to deliver babies, treat illness and injury, and vaccinate against disease. Mary obtained children's overalls to hand out to families for their young daughters to wear while tending the cooking fire, because she had seen too many girls severely burned when their dresses caught fire. These are events woven into the author's three first-person narratives with a storyteller's grace, so that each story is rooted in history but belongs as well to the imagination, where conversations and relationships among historical figures are fully realized. Black-and-white drawings by Peter McCarty open each story and are based on photographs taken for the Frontier Nursing Service by Mary Breckenridge's niece. An actual photograph of Mary Breckenridge and a brief biographical essay on her life follows the stories, and the author's acknowledgments provide the sources for the characters and events in this welcome book for young readers. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children (MS; Nov 2)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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