Ten-year-old Mary McHugh’s world is shattered when her father is injured in a mining accident in the late 1800’s. After losing his leg, Mary’s father falls into a deep depression. He no longer plays the piano or has interest in carving the intricate wooden "Reminders" that he has always made to remind the family of the milestones they shared together. To make matters worse, the family may need to leave their home in Cripple Creek, Colorado in order to make ends meet. Mary’s love for her father and her desire to get life back to "normal" push her to take a chance that restores her father’s spirit and brings her family a new life, strengthened by the hardships they have endured.
Young Mary McHugh is growing up in the frontier town of Cripple Creek, Colorado in the late 1890s. She has a very loving home life full of jokes, laughter and her father's wood carvings he calls "reminders", since he tends to carve figures inspired by real life memories.
Mary's father, a miner, experiences a work accident one day that costs him one of his legs. The transition into life as an amputee is not an easy one for Mary's father. Even once a large part of his initial physical healing has passed, he still struggles with the emotional turmoil brought about by this new life situation. Mary's father doesn't like to see his wife having to take up work as a laundress to pay the bills now that he is out of work... or Mary herself sneaking in babysitting jobs where she can to supplement the family income. Once a man who took pride in doing an honest day's work, Mary's father now battles a sense of uselessness. But when suggestions are made as to what he can contribute (work-wise), he goes back to moping.
But Mary is determined to do whatever is necessary to raise her father's spirits and keep the family unit strong. It is through Mary's bold, optimistic spirit that an answer to the family's prayers comes about, guaranteeing the reader a happy ending to close on. Once he gets his groove back, Mary's mother can't help but lightheartedly comment, "Guess he got bored with his orneriness."
Although Daddy didn't respond, I saw the corners of his mouth turn up. Just a tiny bit. And a new feeling, a spring feeling, lifted my spirits just a tiny bit too. After that, Daddy's hands were always busy. He made the bookshelf for the parlor. He worked on a new bench for the front porch, and he also began carving new Reminders. Mama didn't mind the mess...I didn't mind the mess either. I loved to sit beside Daddy at the kitchen table while he worked. It was like magic to watch him uncover the secret hidden in the wood. His hands were strong and sure as he held the carving knife.
Family Reminders is a quick little read --- big print, lots of heartwarming illustrations --- but there's a fair amount of heart and inspiring, feel-good plot, even a little humor, woven into these few pages! Author Julie Danneberry writes that the storyline is loosely inspired by the childhood of her grandmother, who grew up in the real Cripple Creek, CO and who also had a father who lost a leg in a mining accident. I'd recommend for fans of the Little House on the Prairie books.