The book tells the story of four eighth grade girls living on the west coast of Washington in the 1890s. The girls befriend an old woman, Mrs. Hankinson, whose lifelong dream is to make a quilt with a pattern called “O the Red Rose Tree.” The problem is, she needs seven different colors of red cloth that won’t bleed out when wet. This was a huge dilemma as the cloth would have to come from Europe as Mrs. Hankinson doesn’t want to use Turkey red, the only readily available cloth that meets her standards. These girls don’t have any money to buy cloth and would most likely have to travel over 100 miles to even find the right kind. Only slightly daunted, the girls set off in a series of adventures to get these pieces of cloth, even resorting to lying (and getting caught and punished with a switch!). One of the girls eventually ends up in Portland during the great flood of 1894 and is able to get the last piece of cloth. But will they have time to finish the quilt? Illustrated by Liz Dauber.
I’m not sure if the typical American tween girl would enjoy reading this book, but I was so excited when I rediscovered this title I had to include in on my list. The story moves quickly and is wonderfully funny. These are pretty disobedient girls and they get into all kinds of situations. Beatty’s descriptions of Portland society climbing in and out of second story windows to go to parties and restaurants still holds the same charm it did when I first read this book over 25 years ago.