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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
The Bonnet Book: Diary of an Orphan Train Hatmaker is a work of fiction in the coming of age and historical sub-genres, and was penned by author Nancy Menees Hardesty. In a story written for young adult audiences, we are introduced to protagonist Blanche Spencer when she is sent away on an orphan train, aged fourteen. Thrown into a new life with many challenges, Blanche determines to rise above her lot in life by using creative skills and educating herself to make hats. So begins a wild adventure in the very early twentieth century, with real-life elements based on the life story of the author’s grandmother.
Author Nancy Menees Hardesty has crafted an engrossing and enlightening work that blends real history with a youthful sense of adventure, and a story of women’s emancipation from a lesser-known time. Young adult audiences and adult readers alike will certainly fall in love with this story and with its heroine, who was well developed and brought to life beautifully in the narration and dialogue. I felt that the plot was well-paced to deliver some great introductory information about Blanche and her status, and then as the novel builds it grows more and more into a really exciting come of age story, especially by the time she goes into the Wild West. Knowing that it was a true story at its base also gave it strong emotional impetus, and overall I would highly recommend The Bonnet Book: Diary of an Orphan Train Hatmaker for all ages of historical fiction fans.