If there was an award for worst parents in an MG book, the two in STEALING MT. RUSHMORE would win hands down. When things don’t go right Dad escapes from the world to his bedroom, while Mom has already taken off and never intends to return.

Their four children are named after one of the presidents at Mt. Rushmore—that is except for 13-year-old Nellie, the only girl in the family. The year is 1974 and the newspaper is filled with updates about Nixon and his impeachment proceedings. Nellie reads the paper each morning and checks on her horoscope. She’s hoping for better times ahead as she’s become the replacement mother in the family. She looks after the youngest, Teddy, who is six, and also has to cook, clean, and attempt to bring normalcy to the family. Older brother George is a real jerk most of the time, and quiet ten-year-old Tom spends his days with a best friend.

The planned family trip to visit Mt. Rushmore is crushed when the money saved for the trip is gone, and Mom is the main suspect. Don’t expect Dad to take control. He’s already shut himself in his room. Nellie plans to make things right by finding a way to earn the money in a short time.

This sad tale will have the emotions brewing inside you and they’ll eventually overflow. All that could go wrong does go wrong. Nellie’s strong will and her coming of age character arc will keep you reading. Her first person narration is touching and you’ll be cheering for something to go right for Nellie and this rag tag family.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: August 18, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 256


  1. Getting to know these four kids was a real highlight. Little Teddy will win your heart and even older brother George shows a more hopeful side by the final page.
  2. References to the time period will go over the heads of most young readers, but adults will sure smile. I’m referring to Lawrence Welk, I Dream of Jeannie, a full set of Nancy Drew mysteries, and collecting pop tabs.
  3. Nellie stands up to her brothers and makes them pitch in. Just because she’s the only girl doesn’t mean she has to do everything. Bravo for Nellie’s strong stance.
  4. Don’t miss the author’s Afterword as she expands on some of the historical events including the creation of Mt. Rushmore on sacred land.
  5. Not a perfect ending but one that is so right.


Daphne Kalmar was an elementary and middle-school teacher for over twenty years. Exploring the natural world with kids was her passion as an educator—she owned seventy-five pairs of rubber boots so she could outfit each new class in September and lead weekly expeditions to local creeks and ponds. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

(For more visit Daphne’s author web site.)

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Historical fiction, Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I love a good HF book and this sounds like a winner. It also sounds sad- so it’s good that I know I might need some tissues with me as I read. 🙂 The parents sound terrible! I hadn’t heard of this book so thanks for putting it on my radar. I loved the facts you included about the author. That’s a lot of boots! She must have been a fun teacher.

  2. What a sad story. This family has to grow up too fast with no parental involvement. Unfortunately, there will be kids who will identify with this story and find some strength in its characters. The ending sounds interesting and I’m curious.
    For some reason, I can’t “like” any of the posts. Think WP is beginning the push — but I haven’t budged.

  3. Such an intriguing plot!

  4. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like a great book! Nellie and her family sound like compelling, if frustrating, characters. Thanks for the great review!

  5. Natalie Aguirre says:

    Oh yes, I remember all that stuff. If her dad wasn’t in the picture, it would remind me of The Boxcar Children series. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Jenni says:

    This sounds really intriguing. I was in just with the setting. Oh, Lawerance Welk! How I loved watching that show as a kid and driving my parents (and babysitters) crazy. 🙂 I can tell from your description that this is book is really from the heart. I also like that Nelly stands up to her brothers!

  7. I’m so eager to read more books set in this time period; there seem to be so few compared to the plethora of WWII or Civil War books. (Can you recommend any others?)
    I’m wondering how the lack of parental involvement ends up. While I might enjoy this, my MG-reading children have found bad parenting very upsetting at times (obviously it’s all over MG literature, so I can’t just avoid it, but it’s good to have a head’s up!). Does the dad ever redeem himself??

  8. Pop tabs and Nixon in the news.Man, I can dig it! I can’t wait to hand this one to my students. I do wish the girls were wearing some of the eye popping color combos of the times!

  9. I have been hearing about this one and am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. I do love historical fiction and this sounds so good. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. Pingback: The 2020 GOLDEN CUP AWARDS | Always in the Middle…

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