"Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce" by Lois Lowry

"Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce"

By Lois Lowry

Scholastic, $12.99, ages 9-12

The newest versions of the "Dear America" books, a series of fictional diaries, offer a personal way into important American moments. The focus here is on the

Spanish influenza epidemic

of 1918 and the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, in

New York

. Eleven-year-old Lydia is "desolate" because the Portland,


, Board of Health has closed the theaters and she won't be able to see

Tom Mix

in "Cupid's Roundup" and hear the Wurlitzer play. Twelve days later, she and her older brother, Daniel, are the family's only survivors, eventually taken to be cared for by the Shakers. The portrait of that community, already on the wane from its early-19th century popularity, is nuanced, specific and delicate. Lydia is not just a sanctified mouthpiece for historic research; she has her own personality.