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Sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, smart and lovely Blanche lands in St. Louis, Missouri as a nursemaid, wearing rags and sleeping in a pantry. To rise above her servitude, she begins a self-education program. A trade booth at the 1904 World’s Fair and a Cobden, Illinois apprenticeship launch her into a hat-making career, which she documents in a tiny diary, The Bonnet Book.
An early example of self-determination and girl power, Blanche—now Bonnie—travels alone to the Wild West. Here she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime and the possibility of love—both rife with challenges that test her drive, purpose in life, and sense of self.
The Bonnet Book diary and other historical items in the novel are real-life touchstones in this gripping, inspiring story based on the life of the author's grandmother.
The Bonnet Book is available starting Sept 1, 2020 in bookstores and on Amazon and most other online retailers. The book is listed as Adult Historical Fiction, Young Adult Historical Fiction, Young Adult Historical Biography.
"An engrossing tale and a wonderful tribute to the author's formidable grandmother, an admirable character, fully drawn. A very engaging read."
“In one character The Bonnet Book truly portrays the realistic and accurate experiences of America’s 350,000 orphan train riders. Author Nancy Menees Hardesty perfectly captures the independent spirit of a young American woman who, like all orphan train riders, began life with seemingly insurmountable disadvantages but who turned those disadvantages into opportunities and prevails through hard work and unabashed persistence. A delightful read that speaks to the indomitable American spirit!”
–John Shontz, Project Coordinator, National Making a Difference Project - The Orphan Train Saga; The Upper Musselshell Historic Society, Harlowton, Montana
“A wonderful story about a fourteen year old, Blanche Spencer, and her experience traveling to St. Louis, Illinois, and Oklahoma between 1902 and 1911. Blanche’s pioneer spirit, determination and perseverance helped her become an independent, self-taught young lady. The book brilliantly illustrates the rugged life in the mid-west and Blanche’s drive to be successful. The first chapter captured me with life in rural Illinois in 1902 and I hated to see the book end. I wanted to learn more about Blanche’s life. It is a good read for all ages!
–Norma Lee Hackney, PhD, Director, Shawnee Hills Arts Center, Anna, Illinois
"For a time-travel trip that takes you on a compelling read back into American history, pick up a copy of The Bonnet Book by author Nancy Menees Hardesty. You will experience the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Temperance Camps, Orphan Trains; meet Annie Oakley, and the folks of early American small towns─all seen through the adolescent eyes of the author’s grandmother, a strong Midwestern American woman. Meticulously researched and based on the original “Bonnet Book,” the author’s grandmother’s actual diary, this book is rich with intriguing story telling as well as a personal journey into our fast-moving history."
–Diane LeBow, Ph.D., President emerita Bay Area Travel Writers, Professor emerita
"Nancy Hardesty shares her family history and brings us a delectable read "The Bonnet Book" about the trials of young woman in the early 20th century with ties to southern Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. An exciting and compelling story becomes an adventure tale of the author's paternal grandmother who is the heroine in The Bonnet Book. "
–Cheryl Ranchino Trench, Columnist ~ Swinford Publications, Marion, IL