Elsie Mae Has Something to Say is a middle grade novel written by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because we’ve read Cavanaugh’s last book- Just Like Me.
This book takes us back to the 1930s, and we are immediately introduced to Elsie Mae, a young girl living near the Okefenokee Swamp. The swamp is very dear to her heart; not only do her grandparents and uncles live there, but Elsie has spent the last several summers with her grandparents. As the story begins, Elsie Mae is mailing a letter to the White House because she has heard about a canal project that would cut right through her beloved swamp. Elsie Mae is determined to do something about this, and fervently hopes that her letter will reach President Roosevelt’s desk.
The summer starts out well enough- Elsie’s Uncle Owen presents her with a dog, something she has always wanted. Elsie is looking forward to spending the summer becoming acquainted with the dog, but she faces two obstacles: the arrival of her cousin Henry James (who wants to be a preacher when he grows up) and the news that there are no good hog bandits on the loose in the Okefenokee.
Elsie Mae sees a new opportunity; if she can catch the hog bandits, then that might attract enough attention to stop the canal from being built. She will not be alone in her efforts- she’ll have her trusty dog Huck to help, and Henry James might prove useful as well- as long as he can stop preaching and shouting Hallelujah for a minute to listen to her.
I read this book with my three girls who are ten, eight, and eight. They looked forward to reading every night, and laughed at the funny parts and gasped with shock at the surprises. They especially enjoyed Henry’s tendency to say, “Lord have mercy!”
As a parent, I appreciated the lessons conveyed in this book about what it means to be a hero and the motivations of our actions. At first, Elsie Mae is annoyed by Henry James’s warnings about being prideful and that “pride goeth before the fall”, but she reluctantly sees his point. On that note, it’s wonderful that Elsie Mae also learns acceptance; at first she is annoyed by her cousin, but she learns to value him for who he is, and she encourages him to pursue his own goals.
I would absolutely recommend Elsie Mae Has Something to Say to middle grade readers. Elsie is very much a real child- she doesn’t always do what she is supposed to, and Henry is a nice foil for her- the voice of reason, so to speak. This is an adventure story, and there is also an element of mystery as well. As an adult reader, I noticed some clues fairly early, but my girls didn’t figure it out until some of the more obvious clues.
I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I purchased our own copy of this book as well as the audio companion because I know it’s going to be a family favorite!