Bertie and May

~ A Biographical Novel by Andre Norton

& Bertha Stemm Norton (Andre's Mother)


Synopsis ~

From the front flap of dust jacket ~

When Pa decided that they were going to have to move into town so that he could learn the ways of the new roller mill, eight-year-old Bertie and her older sister May were downcast. Who would be their friends? What would their new school be like? Would they have to act like “little ladies” all the time? Born and brought up in the Ohio countryside, the two pigtailed sisters dreaded the thought of leaving it. But Loudenville was not only different; it was exciting and full of happy adventures. A big four-room schoolhouse, a Pie Feast, new friends, their very own fair-sale – and then Pa announced that they just might be moving back to the country again!


Write-ups from fans ~

Biography of Andre Norton's mother as an eight-year-old child, when her father moved them into town so he could learn how to run the new roller mills. Bertie (Andre's mother) and her older sister May have many adventures learning how to live in the "big town" of Loundenville, Ohio. A four-room schoolhouse, pie fests, new friends, and a fair-sale of their very own. Then their father announces that they might be moving back to the country again. ~ SL


This book is an autobiography/biography. Andre's mother Bertha Stemm Norton wrote the first half and Andre finished it after her mother died. It is tale of Bertha (Bertie) and her older sister May and their life in rural Ohio during 1880 when Bertha was Eight and May was ten. It only covers several months. It reads a bit like the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A charming peek at a gentler time and place. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: Oct. 1st, 1969
Bertie (as in Bertha Stemm Norton) and May are the enormously companionable sisters that figure in this period story of life in the Ohio countryside and then in the Ohio town of Loudenville before the turn of the century. That they were real people is the something-special in an otherwise only mildly entertaining chromo of their move from a millhouse (Pa ran the mill) to the overwhelmingly urbane town. Which entailed registering for the fifth grade instead of being in the "Fourth Reader," a four-classroom school instead of the one they were used to where Bertie and May had shared a seat. And it meant borrowing from warm Uncle Harris (but Pa didn't like to be beholden to no man), singing in the Church play on Christmas, making friends with girls who had new ginghams every day, and finally setting up a store to earn money for a silk handkerchief to send to Uncle Harris as evidence of their appreciation. There's a cat named Freddie and browned flour for a treat at recess. . . and at the start of the New Year (at the end of the book) the promise from Pa that they'll move no more. Moving, in a nice, nostalgic way.


Booklist Review ~ March 01, 1970
Written in part by her mother and completed by Andre Norton after her mother's death. The story is woven around episodes of Mrs. Norton's childhood with Pa, Ma, and her older sister May in rural Ohio in the late 1870's and 1890's. Home and school activities, the simple pleasures of nineteenth-century country living, and a family's move from the country to a nearby town when changing times force Pa to give up his grist mill on Big Fork River and take a job with the new roller mill in loudenville comprise the major action in a quiet but engaging story. The book is illustrated with drawings and a photograph of the two Stemm girls appears on the dust jacket.


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

More than ninety years ago Bertie and May and Ma and Pa Stemm lived in the north middle section of Ohio. Pa kept the mill on the Big Fork River, and later he went to work at a roller mill in town. Though periods of time have herein been telescoped, this book is a true story of what it meant to be a little girl in rural Ohio in the late 1870's and early 1880's.
Bertha Stemm Norton, before her death at the age of ninety-five, had written down about half the story of Bertie and May. The rest of it she had told so vividly to her children, grandchildren, and then to her great-grandchildren, that the remaining incidents could be added to round out the book.
So, though part of it was not written by her, it is truly Bertie's story in every way, and a memorial, not only to the Stemm girls and Pa and Ma, but to a whole way of long-vanished life.
- A. N.


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1969) Published by World, HC, LCCN 72082778, $4.25, 174pg ~ illustration by Fermin Rocker {Green Cloth Boards & Spine, # A3398 on Rear of Dust Jacket, code 1 2 3 4 5 73 72 71 70 69 on rear end page} ~ $3.97 is library binding ~ Distributed in Canada by Nelson, Foster & Scott
  • (1971) Published by Hamish, HC, 0-297-01953-2, SBN 241-01953-2, £1.25, 174pg ~ illustration by Fermin Rocker {Black Paper Boards, “First Published in Great Britain 1971”, ISBN on Rear of Dust Jacket}

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Interior Illustrations;



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