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Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
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Mar 11, 2010

really liked it
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Read in April, 2010

Jacob Have I Loved
By Katherine Paterson

Sarah Louise is growing up on a small fishing town on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, and World War II has just broken out. Her life is hard enough, being female, but being a twin—when her sister Caroline has talent, looks, popularity, and (Sarah Louise thinks) all their parents’ love makes the time of transition from girlhood into womanhood almost unbearable. Sarah Louise faces life, and its storms (both literal and figurative), with determination and strength.

Key Issues:
Coming of age, self-confidence, siblings, older family members, gender divisions of labor
Main Characters:
Sarah Louise: an ‘average’ fifteen-year-old girl, growing up on a small fishing island in the 1940s. Sarah (Weeze) has few friends, and is fairly tom-boyish. She isn’t pretty and ‘girly’--and even though she was raised in a strong Methodist household, and has a fairly good idea of what is “proper” and what isn’t, she doesn’t know sometimes if she can believe in God because her life seems so unfair.
Caroline: Weeze’s twin sister. Caroline is smaller, prettier, more talented (she is a singer who shows great promise in school), and more popular (with children and adults) than her sister is. But she is also more fragile and not as strong mentally and emotionally as Sarah Louise.
Col: Col is Sarah Louise’ best friend, of sorts. A soft, somewhat pudgy boy being raised by his mother and Grandmother, Col doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the other boys on the island any better than too-masculine Sarah Louise ‘fits in’ as a girl, so they spend time together. With his honest and straight-forward ways, Col adds a pragmatic, practical voice to Weeze’s romantic and rather idealistic musings.
Hiram Wallace: ‘The Captain’ is an adult friend of Sarah, Col, and later Caroline’s. He left the island as a young man, returning to live there when he was much older than the children’s parents. Captain Wallace knows what life on the island is like—his family had lived there for generations—but he also knows what life off the island can be like, which is something that the children learn from him.
Grandmother: Caroline and Sarah Louise’s Grandmother lives with their family. She is the widow of a fisherman, and she grew up on the island. Even though Grandmother has been around it all of her life, she hates the sea—but she also hates to travel on the ferry, which is the only link between the island and the main land (really, Grandmother doesn’t seem to like much of anything—she is a strong Methodist, and if it isn’t in her Bible, it isn’t good). Grandmother is also getting rather old and cantankerous, which makes her hard to be around.

Interesting Information:
This book won the Newbery Medal for 1981, the ALA Notable Book award for best Young Adult book of 1980, the British Fantasy Award for 1980, the School Library Journal’s Best Book of the Year, was a Book List Editor’s Choice and is considered by some to be one of the best books for young adults written in the 1980s. The title comes from a Bible verse: ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ (Rebekah’s musings about why she has helped one of her twin sons to the detriment of the other).

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