Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Young Adult Fiction Orphans & Foster Homes

When the Bough Breaks

by (author) Irene N. Watts

Initial publish date
Aug 2007
Orphans & Foster Homes, Girls & Women, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2007
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 7 to 12


Millie’s is a small family — just a mother, a father, a small brother, Hamish, and her. Both her parents had been orphaned (and were introduced in Watts’ novel Flower), but the family they created was tight-knit and loving. When Millie’s mother announces that she is pregnant, it seems life is perfect. They have each other, and, although the Great Depression has brought hard times to their small town, Millie’s father’s services as a blacksmith are still in demand. But when her mother dies, suddenly everything changes. Her father retreats into depression and Millie, only thirteen, finds herself responsible for a newborn baby. When a stranger appears and threatens the remnants of the family even further, Millie musters courage she never dreamed she had to rebuild the home that means so much to her.

Irene N. Watts’ memorable story is as complex and as comforting as family life itself.

About the author

In 1968 Irene N. Watts came to Canada from Britain, where she had arrived thirty years earlier from Germany, via Kindertransport. She is a writer/playwright, theatre director, and educator. Her plays for young audiences have been widely produced. Awards include a Vancouver Theatre Alliance Jessie Richardson for Goodbye Marianne (Scirocco Drama and Anchorage Press, U.S.); the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People; the Isaac Frischwasser Memorial Award (Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards, 1999 and 2001); the Government of Alberta Achievement Award for Outstanding Service to Drama. Irene is a Lifetime Member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Recent publications include Tapestry of Hope: Holocaust Writing for Young People, compiled with Lillian Boraks-Nemetz (Tundra Books).

Irene N. Watts' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Flower:

“Irene Watts movingly explores the issue of family identity in her latest novel, Flower, with the same poignant sensitivity she brought to her series of novels about the Kindertransport…”
Quill and Quire

“The story is sure to send young readers dashing off to the attic in search of family treasures.”
CM Magazine

“Sensitively and thoughtfully written, the book tells a convincing and moving story linking past and present in one discovery.”
— Okanagan University Library

Librarian Reviews

When the Bough Breaks

Quitting school seems like the only option available to 13-year-old Millicent in Irene N. Watts’s When the Bough Breaks. After her mother dies, Millie is in charge of steering the domestic ship for her father, 10-year-old brother and newborn baby brother. Millie smoothes out some problems, and even finds a friend to babysit so she can keep her part-time job during the summer. But what will happen when school begins? The book is set at the end of the Depression, and Millie fears that there will be no money to pay a full-time baby guardian. She worries that the baby will be given away, and at the same time is even frightened he will be stolen by a mysterious lady passing through town. The resolution brought a salty tear to my eye.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2008. Vol.31 No.2.

When the Bough Breaks

The Great Depression has brought hard times to their small town, but Millie has her family to comfort her. That is until Millie’s mother suddenly dies, her father retreats into depression and Millie’s left to care for her newborn sibling. The sequel to Flower.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2008.

Other titles by