Changes for Kit

Published in 2001; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Walter Raine and Susan McAliley


It's the coldest winter Cincinnati has seen in almost three decades. Kit is painfully aware of the freezing temperatures when she gives away her old coat to a young homeless girl (her family made a "new" one out of a coat of her father's), and wishes she could do more to help the great number of people suffering. Suddenly, she's jerked out of her thoughts with the news that her great-uncle has fallen and badly broken his ankle and wrist. He'll need to stay with Kit's family until he heals. There's room for him; Aunt Millie and a pair of boarders have moved out...but he's so hateful! It's going to be hard to get along with him in the house.

Kit ends up doing most of the work taking care of Uncle Hendrick. Her father has a part-time job at an airport, and her mother is always busy with housework. He's as cantankerous as ever, and even Kit's friendly dog Grace doesn't like him or his nasty Scottie dog. A common chore he has for Kit is writing letters. He broke the wrist on his dominant hand, and dictates letters to the newspaper for her copy down. His letters are full of ire for the President's work programs (and in all fairness, one was declared unconstitutional and some were failures, though many worked well). Kit finds herself biting her tongue to avoid arguing with the man. Arguing will mean spending more time with him. Instead, she writes her own letter to the editor. After all, her great-uncle's letters are often printed, so she knows exactly what the editor is looking for. She writes about the plight of homeless children, hoping to inspire people to help them. She knows her great-uncle wouldn't approve, considering such charity just throwing good money after bad.

On the way to deliver her own letter and her great-uncle's to the newspaper, Kit accompanies Stirling and Ruthie to a soup kitchen, where they donate some of Ruthie's clothes, outgrown but still in good repair. Kit has with her the camera her brother fixed up for her, and gets a brainstorm. With the permission of the soup kitchen director, parents, and children, she takes pictures of the homeless children, showing their poverty. She delivers her letter with the roll of film, hoping that the newspaper will print both and people will help the children.

The next day Kit's letter and some pictures are in the paper! Her great-uncle is at first indignant that a mere child would have such audacity, but Kit politely reminds him that she learned how to write to the editor from him. He stalks off, but there might have been a flash of respect on his face. The next week at school, Kit's classmates bring in armloads of coats and shoes. People that Kit and Stirling sold eggs to bring donations as well. Kit, Stirling, and Ruthie lug a wagonload of clothing to the soup kitchen, where the director tells them ever since the letter was printed, they've been inundated with donations for the children. Later, Kit delivers another missive of her great-uncle's to the newspaper. The editor sees her and asks if the letter is "one of his or one of yours." When he learns it's from her great-uncle he tells her wearily to drop it in his inbox...but that if Kit writes anything else, to bring it directly to him. She has the makings of a great journalist.

Looking Back

The historical section is about the efforts made to end the Great Depression. President Roosevelt and his cabinet made the New Deal, a series of programs designed to keep businesses like banks from failing (and insuring the money in them, preventing runs on banks) and to create jobs. Some jobs only lasted for a few months, and they were better than nothing. Drought gripped much of the South and Midwest, making things even worse. But gradually the economy improved. One final push out of the Depression came in the form of World War II. Factories opened to manufacture supplies for America's allies, and eventually for American troops themselves, after the US entered the war. Many young men were drafted into the war effort, and women joined the workforce in their place, in far greater numbers than before. When World War II ended, so did many of the women's jobs, but families had earned enough money to get themselves out of the financial straits of the Great Depression, and the veterans returned home to plenty of jobs.


This book is dedicated to "my mother Kathleen Martin Tripp, who inspired both Kit and me, with love and thanks."

I can sort of see but not quite the point Uncle Hendrick is making, that if too many people rely on charity, eventually the charity will run out of money and then even more people will be destitute. But even though some charity might be a crutch, people sometimes need crutches if they break their legs (ideally they also heal and can get along without the crutch later on). And I prefer that charities be privately-run rather than government-run, but this is an imperfect world, and people, especially children, can't always wait for non-government help.

At first I thought it was way too unrealistic for Kit's photographs to be developed so quickly, but as long as the newspaper had someone with a free hour or so, it's not that unreasonable. Developing one roll of black and white film doesn't take too long.

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