Review: One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

one year in coal harbor

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

Return to the world of Horvath’s Newbery Honor winning Everything on a Waffle in this follow up.  Primrose Squarp is back living with her parents in Coal Harbor and everything should be just fine, but there’s more trouble brewing in town.  Primrose just knows that if people would listen to her, it would all work out fine.  Like Uncle Jack and Kate Bowzer: Primrose knows they are in love, but they just won’t admit it.  Then there’s the lack of a best friend, though the new foster kid might just be the right person.  And finally, there’s logging happening outside of town that’s bringing in protesters and developers, making for all sorts of excitement.  Horvath lives up to the first book here, giving readers another chance to spend time in Coal Harbor.

Horvath has created a beautiful setting for her book that is so much a part of the story that it could not have happened anywhere else.  She has then taken that setting and populated it with amazing characters.  There are snotty girls, loving friends, intriguing strangers, and at the heart an extended family that provides support through everything.  While the characters may be wild at times, there is such a network of community in the book that it all makes merry sense.

Though there is a sense of community and family throughout, Horvath also deals with some darker issues here.  There is the question of development of wilderness and the death of a pet.  While this darkness is there, it is not all encompassing.  The town continues to function and life goes on. 

Horvath’s writing is also exquisite.  I particularly enjoy the parts where Primrose (who is wise and interesting and exactly the sort of person any reader would want as a best friend) is thinking about life.  Here is one of my favorite passages from page 148:

…but it was as if he and I and the hills were all part of one thing, separate from other things on Earth. Just as my mother and father and I were part of one thing, separate from all else. And these small subsets within the universe, I decided, are maybe what people love best. Whether it is you and the ocean or you and your sisters or you and your B and B, your husband and children.

Fans of the first book should definitely read the second, and truly, who in could ever pass it up!  I envy new readers of the pair of books who can read them back to back and spend an extended time in Coal Harbor.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley from NetGalley.

Children and Teen Reading Rates Falling


The National Literacy Trust conducted a survey of 21,000 children and teens in the UK about their reading habits.  In 2005, four out of ten children read daily.  That has fallen to three in ten. 

What I find most troubling about the survey results is that one in five children said that they rarely or never read in their own time.  17% of the children even said they would be embarrassed to be seen reading by their friends.  Scary that! 

Even genres you might think would be continuing in their popularity are falling.  Magazine reading fell by 20% since 2005 with only 57% of children reading magazines.  Even more surprising is the comic reading dropping to 50% from the 64% in 2005.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, gives the following statement:

We believe we need to inspire a new generation to read in the same way that the Olympics is inspiring a new generation to take part in sport.

We need to make reading irresistible. We want to call on families and professionals working with children and young people to make ten minutes in their day for reading.

This is about carving out reading time yes, but it is also about getting the right books into the hands of children.  It’s about allowing them to read about their own interests, taking them to the library to explore those interests, and getting out of the way.  We have to let go of what books are best for them and just get them turning pages.  Quality will follow.  I promise.

The same is true of adults, who need to read what they love (even if that is children’s and teen books) so that they can model reading for the children in their lives.  If reading is good for youth, it’s just as good for us!

Photo from

This Week’s Tweets

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter account that you might find interesting:

2012 Fall Preview for Children and Teens | Kirkus Book Reviews

Andy Mulligan’s top 10 school stories | Children’s books | #kidlit

The Artist Who Inspired Maurice Sendak Finally Gets His Due – Steven Heller – The Atlantic

Blue Balliett on Writing for Kids, and Everyone Else – Gapers Block Book Club | Chicago

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss redrew the world of kid literature – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette #kidlit

Emma Thompson? It’s Peter Rabbit here… – Telegraph #kidlit

Graphic Novel Removed from Connecticut School District’s Summer Reading List

Judy Blume, Author Of Young Adult Fiction Books, Reveals Struggle With Breast Cancer – International Business Times

The Naked Truth: Librarians Stood By Maurice Sendak, No Stranger to Controversy | School Library Journal