Tuesday, December 29, 2009
First, a comparison. Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol is a seasonal staple at this time of year. The tale of an embittered miser who becomes the most generous of men through having his eyes opened to the need and potential of others, particularly the poor, is eternally popular in a world which likes to focus on redemption and positive change. The mid-19th century produced many stories of wealth and poverty, love and indifference, as it was a time when the ruthless attitude that poverty was a) inevitable and b) a judgement on the poor was starting to meet resistance.
Two years later, Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen added to the criticism with a very short story about a loveless urchin who curls up on a wintry street corner on New Year's Eve. The Little Match Girl is one the darkest of Andersen's often sad stories. When I first read it as a child, it was my first experience of a fiction in which the hero is not saved, the world is not righted, and despite the warmth and love of the religious message, what lingers is the tragedy.
Despite my fondness for Scrooge, I'm fascinated by Andersen's darker story. Dickens, ever a bully with his paper pulpit, crams redemption down our throats so forcefully that the part of the story most remember with fondness isn't Scrooge the redeemed, but Scrooge the - well, Scrooge. Dickens' story fails on what had to have been the most basic level; he's a portrait of a very particular miser, not a representative of all the harsh, indifferent rich men who turn their backs on their fellow humans. Dickens adored making a point, but he loved writing zany, memorable characters more.
Andersen's story, on the other hand, is of a small child dying in the snow at the Christmas season, dreaming of a stove, food, holiday decorations. Nobody has bought her matches, another urchin has stolen her shoes, her own father will beat her for not bringing home money. It doesn't get more relentless than this. No time-travelling look at the influences of a rich man's poverty of soul, no change of the fate of a poor man's son, no warmth but the promise of fantasy and death. The mood in this short, short story is almost unbearable. And in an entirely different way than A Christmas Carol, it's also succeeded worldwide as a recurring, eternal tale.
It's available online at Online-Literature.com and at HCA.Gilead.org, which also contains a lot of information about Andersen.
Some truly alarming pop culture trivia from Wikipedia
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Tom stared at him, his eyes traveling from the braids to the coup feather, from the claw and bead necklace to the medicine bundle dangling below Jim's left ear.
"By golly, hoss," he said slowly, "I thought you was a half-breed. Didn't you grow up Crow?"
"Yeah, but I come from Missouri afore that. Long time ago."
"What happened, Injuns steal you?"
"No, I run away from home. It's nigh nine year back now."
19-year-old Jim Keath is living at the tail end of the wild west, 1844, in the great wilderness of Oregon Territory. As a restless 11-year-old farm boy, he'd run away to chase his Uncle Adam, a trapper, to adventure. He'd gotten more than he bargained for when, a year into his Western life, he was mauled by a bear. A tribe of Crow Indians came across the half-dead boy and saved his life, raising him as their own. But at 16, the boy now living as a Crow named Talks Alone has a disturbing reaction to seeing fellow warriors return home with white scalps. Troubled, he finally runs away from his tribe and takes up trapping with mountain man Tom Rivers. But a note from a nearby trading post shakes his life up once again. His parents are dead, and his three younger siblings need his help.
Jim, if you're still alive, come help us. Pa's been dead three year, and mother died on the trail two months ago. We buried her beside the Sweetwater. Now me and Sally and Dan'l is all that's left. We are just across the Snake bound for the Williamette Valley, and none of us are old enough to claim land after we get there, except you. If you ever cared anything for mother or any of us, then come. It's our only chance.
Jim is excited to reunite with his brother Jonnie; the two were very close back in Missouri. But when he finds his siblings, Jonnie and Sally are dismayed by his appearance and embarrassed by the challenge of incorporating their gone-native brother with their fellow pioneers. To Jim, the pioneers are the contemptible 'bourgeways' who he can already foresee are going to destroy the wilderness he loves. And beneath that culture clash, Jim is still torn between whether he's an adventurous white boy or a Crow native at heart.
Their family drama doesn't have much time to percolate, however, as the first order of business is finding a way through the mountains into the farm-friendly Williamette Valley. The wagons can raft - wildly - down the Columbia River through a gorge that is the only entrance through the Cascade Range to the valley, but the cattle must go over the mountains. Both parties suffer, Jonny and Sally with the wagons:
Since the first day, all of them had ceased to think of the river as a mere body of water, rushing through natural causes to the sea. It was a monster, intent on their destruction, roaring with fury at their presence in his black-walled gorge, calling the rain to drench them and the snow to blind them and the wind to madden them and the rapids to drown them.
and Jim with the cattle:
Only the dwindling food supply enabled Jim to distinguish one day from the next, as they struggled through a white and swirling world where they could see only a few feet at a time, where the gusty wind drove the snowflakes into their sleeves and down their necks, stung tears into their eyes, and then froze them on their lashes.
Jim's temporarily in the family good graces when he escorts the herd safely over and signs them the deed for 640 acres on the Tualatin River. But as Jonnie buckles down happily to the enormous task of creating a farm out of the forest, Jim is again beset by restlessness and resentment. And confusion. He doesn't understand why these pioneers want to tame the land, he doesn't understand why his brother is one of them, and he doesn't understand why his brother and sister hate his Crow years. And yet - he's not Crow. He remembers the good and bad years of that life, and can't find the words to defend them to his family. Or his own feckless indifference for the family he ran from, or his inability now to settle down and live happily as a farmer. When Tom drifts back into the picture, Jim's tempted to resume his old life.
A very thorough and fair portrait of a family divided, in which the two sides both get a sympathetic hearing. Jonnie's view of Indians - murdering savages - is balanced by Jim's memories of the tenderness and brutality of his Crow family. But Jim's incomprehension about the 'bourgeways' is balanced by scenes where Jonnie talks with others, notably the sympathetic Rutledge, about the frustrations of having this brother who won't help with the backbreaking labor of carving out a farm, and whose Indian ways creates unease with the neighbors.
The main characters - Jim and Jonnie - are rock solid, but most others are peripheral. Sally in particular seems to be a missed opportunity. The action is frequent, believable and memorable. The problems and their resolution are excellent.
About the author
Eloise Jarvis Mcgraw
Born in Texas, she grew up in Oklahoma and attended Principia College in Illinois. She married William Corbin McGraw in 1940. Her first published article was accepted by Parent's Magazine in 1943. The young family lived in various places, including San Diego, before heading to Oregon in 1952. They bought a farm near Wilsonville and both Eloise and William concentrated on writing. Under the name William Corbin, he was also a successful author of books for children and teens (Smoke, High Road Home, Horse In The House).
The Oregon Book Awards named their honor for children's literature after her: the Eloise Jarvis Mcgraw Award for Children's Literature.
Sawdust In His Shoes
Moccasin Trail (1952) won Newberry Honor
The Golden Goblet (1962) won Newberry Honor
The Moorchild (1997) won Newberry Honor
A Really Weird Summer (1977) won Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery
The Seventeenth Swap
Mara, Daughter Of The Nile
Joel And The Great Merlini (1979)
The Trouble With Jacob
The Money Room
The Striped Ships
Crown Fire (1951)
Merry Go Round In Oz
The Forbidden Fountain Of Oz
The Rundelstone Of Oz
Pharoah (1958) (adult)
Techniques Of Fiction Writing (1959) (nonfiction)
Papers at the University of Oregon
Oregon Book Awards
Map of Oregon Territory in 1838
About the Tualatin River
About the Columbia River Gorge
Photo of the Columbia River Gorge
Friday, November 27, 2009
One of a series of books starring Maggie, her grandmother and the grumpy sea captain Mr. Whiskers.
About the authors
Harry Devlin (1918-2001) & Wende Devlin (1917-2002)
They met at Syracuse University and married in 1941. His art career took him to Collier's magazine, where he became a leading cartoonist and illustrator. When the magazine folded, they began a long and productive collaboration. The NJ town of Mountainside, where they lived much of their lives, has a collection of their work.
Cranberry Thanksgiving (1971)
Cranberry Mystery (1978)
Cranberry Halloween (1982)
Cranberry Christmas (1984)
Cranberry Valentine (1986)
Cranberry Birthday (1988)
Cranberry Summer (1992)
Cranberry Autumn (1993)
Cranberry Easter (1993)
Tales From Cranberryport: Moving Day (1994)
Tales From Cranberryport: Trip To The Dentist (1994)
Tales From Cranberryport: Maggie Has A Nightmare (1994)
Tales From Cranberryport: New Baby In Cranberryport (1994)
Tales From Cranberryport: Lost At The Fair (1995)
Tales From Cranberryport: First Day Of School (1995)
Old Black Witch (1963)
Old Witch And The Polka Dot Ribbon (1970)
Old Witch Rescues Halloween (1972)
The Knobby Boys To The Rescue (1965)
To Grandfather's House We Go: A Roadside Tour Of American Homes (1967)
Aunt Agatha, There's A Lion Under The Couch (1968)
What Kind Of House Is That? (1969)
What's Under My Bed? (1970)
Tales Of Thunder And Lightning (1975)
Portraits Of American Architecture (1989)
The Trouble With Henriette (1995)
The Official Wende and Harry Devlin Website
Harry And Wende Devlin
Mountainside Library Devlin Collection
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
A new favorite holiday for adults, Halloween has lost some of its luster in recent years for children. Of course, modern children do get sweet snacks on occasions other than Halloween and Christmas, but it still seems unfair that myths about poisoned candy and parental vapors about kidnappers resulted in a mass retreat from the joys of Halloween.
Below are a few lists of children's books which fit the season.
The House With A Clock In The Walls by John Bellairs
Ginnie And The New Girl by Catherine Woolley (chapter Ghosts And Goblins)
The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom (chapter Butterflies Or Ballet Dancers?)
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Mr. McFadden's Halloween by Rumer Godden
Ghosts Who Went To School by Judith Spearing
The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew (pretty much Ruth Chew's entire bibliography)
Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett
The Blue-Nosed Witch by Margaret Embry
The Littlest Witch by Jeanne Massey
Bunnicula by James Howe
The House With A Clock In The Walls by John Bellairs is, like most of Bellairs' books, warm and cozy and more than a little unnerving. The Halloween scene in which Lewis accidentally sets free a malevolent spirit is one of many that gives the book its strength as a genuine little horror novel for kids.
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is another. The story, which allows for a supernatural or psychological explanation, follows a girl's relationship with a stray kitten whose hideous appearance prompts the name Worm. Jessica becomes convinced that Worm is evil, a conduit for a coven of witches, and working against her.
Old Black Witch by Wende Devlin
The Witch Kitten by Ruth Carroll
How Spider Saved Halloween by Robert Kraus
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Hardie Gramatky, author and illustrator
1939, G.P. Putnam's Sons
Little Toot hated work. He saw no sense in pulling ships fifty times bigger than himself all the way down to the ocean. And he was scared of the wild seas that lay in wait outside the channel, beyond where the harbor empties into the ocean.
A small tugboat who prefers play over work is shamed by the other boats and must prove himself during a storm.
The writing is fine but it's the illustrations that make this a classic. I grew up on a river and the chubby little tugs are the most appealing of boats. Dwarfed by the great tankers and cargo ships, they're chunky workhorses beside the sleek sailboats and yachts. But they look like they'll be here forever, long after the last speedboat has sunk. And Gramatky captures that sturdy, powerful look to perfection, and gives each boat a personality.
A new edition was issued in 2007 by Putnam, which used first editions and original paintings to restore the original's rich color. It is an amazing difference (see here); the copy I was using to write this review was a 1963 edition, and the cover is worlds away from the original or the 2007; the little boat's hat is orange, the background a faded blue-grey.
About the author
A watercolorist with a clear affinity for the water, Gramatky based his famous tugboat on boats he'd watched in
Much more information is available at the website (check out Yacht Race under Paintings - gorgeous)
Little Toot series
Little Toot on the
Little Toot on the
Little Toot on the
Little Toot through the
Little Toot and the
Homer And The Circus Train
Nikos And The Sea God
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The Paddy Pork series
John S. Goodall
Browsing through the Easy Fiction section of the library, I stumbled across this series of small books for small children and was instantly added to what appears to be a faithful following of Goodall's illustrations. The delicate artwork and sheer charm of the little pig's adventures remind me strongly of the Little Bear series, but the darkness of some illustrations is all British. Goodall was an artist who used sympathetic flair and painstaking detail to create small books without text but filled with story. Here is the first one.
The Adventures Of Paddy Pork
1968, Harcourt, Brace & World
In the first of the Paddy Pork series, a little pig runs off to join the circus and falls afoul of a treacherous (and quite scary) fox. When at last he finds the circus folk, he discovers that home's best.
About the Author
John Strickland Goodall
Obituary in The Independent
The Adventures of Paddy Pork
The Ballooning Adventures of Paddy Pork
Paddy's Evening Out
Paddy's New Hat
Paddy Finds a Job: A Pop-Up Story
Paddy Pork--Odd Jobs
Paddy Under Water
Paddy to the Rescue
The Story Of An
An Edwardian Summer
An Edwardian Christmas
An Edwardian Season
Shrewbettina Goes To Work: A Pop Up Story
The Story Of An
The Story Of
The Story Of A Farm
Before The War 1908-1939
Great Days Of A Country House
The Surprise Picnic
The Adventures Of Kelly, Dot And Esmeralda
Above And Below Stairs
Little Red Riding Hood
Many of the Fairacre and Thrush Green books published under the pseudonym Miss Read (Dora Saint) were illustrated by Goodall.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Eleanor Clymer, il. Robert Quackenbush
Mrs. Casey was very kind. Too kind. She was kind to everybody, even strangers. One rainy day she took in a stray puppy. He was cold and hungry, and she gave him some bread and milk and rubbed him with a towel.
But what did she do then? Did she open the door and send him on his way? No, indeed. She let him stay.
"We'll call him Sam," she said. "He'll be company for you, Horatio."
Horatio didn't want company.
The little story in this early reader book is very good, but the illustrations are superlative. A cranky orange cat, annoyed at his kind-hearted owner for taking in other pets, becomes lost and finds himself playing nurse to a pair of alley kittens.
About the Author
Other books - Horatio series
Leave Horatio Alone
Horatio Goes To The Country
Horatio Solves A Mystery
The Trolley Car Family
My Brother Stevie
The Tiny Little House
Hamburgers And Ice Cream For Dessert
Harry The Wild West Horse
About the Illustrator
Friday, May 22, 2009
1937 (pictured: 1971, Scholastic)
"Now, Jean," said Mary firmly, "we've just got to be brave. I planned everything out last night while you were asleep and the boat was drifting along. Mr. Snodgrass was telling me only the other day that there are hundreds of little islands in this part of the sea, and I'm hoping to reach one before night."
12-year-old Mary Wallace and her 10-year-old sister Jean are making the long sea voyage from
They laid a circle of stones beside the stream, and that evening had their first campfire. It was pleasant to have warm food again, even if it was only heated in cans and cups, but more pleasant still, it was, to have a friendly flame to hold back the dark mystery of the tropical night.
On the island, they also find Mr. Peterkin, a Cockney sailor who fled a threatening marriage to live alone on the island. He's dismayed to have domesticity and small children thrust upon him after all that effort to avoid them, but he is slowly won over by baby Ann Elizabeth, who admires his whiskers.
Throughout their adventures, the Wallace girls are, more than anything else, sensible. While not technically orphans, their mother died when they were small and their father had left them to the care of housekeepers, basically meaning Mary ran the household. So neither is too sad to be parted from family for months, although they do get lonely. They both adore babies and spent much of the sea voyage babysitting, and to a great extent their shipwrecked state is blissful. Jean, younger and more harum-scarum, adopts a baby monkey, and both girls revel in providing food and shelter for their little charges.
The Boxcar Children
About the Author
Brink was born in 1895 and died in 1981. She won the Newberry Prize for her 1935 book Caddie Woodlawn. Born in Idaho, she got her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and married a mathematician.
Anything Can Happen On The River
Magical Melons aka Caddie Woodlawn's Family (sequel to Caddie Woodlawn)
The Highly Trained Dogs Of Professor Petit
Family Sabbatical (sequel to Family Grandstand)
The Pink Motel
Andy Buckram's Tin Men
Two Are Better Than One
The Bad Times Of Irma Baumlein (aka Irma's Big Lie)
Lad With A Whistle
Children's - Picture/Easy
Strangers In The Forest
Snow In the River
Adult - Nonfiction
A Chain Of Hands
Four Girls On A Homestead
All Over Town
Minty Et Compagnie
Harps In The Wind
The Twin Cities
Chateau Saint Barnabe
The Bellini Look
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Noel Streatfeild, il. Peggy Fortnum
1970, Random House
When young Margaret is sent to an orphanage in 1900
"One of those independent children," she agreed. "It will take some time before she is molded to our shape. Send her to me when she comes in from school tomorrow. She shall have ten strokes on each hand. That will teach her who is the ruler in this establishment."
Good luck, cruel Matron. Margaret is a sturdy, outspoken child whose remorseless imagination and strong sense of her own story - she was left on a doorstep as a baby, with fine baby clothes and a secret benefactor who sent gold to her caretakers every year for ten years - makes her impervious. She also has an ally in Lavinia Beresford, a fellow orphan who has gained employment in a big house as a scullery maid, and her two little brothers, Peter and Horatio, who are fellow inmates at St. Luke's.
Matron is a standard big, evil woman. Lavinia and her brothers are the standard upper-class children fallen upon hard times and Margaret is a standard chutzpah-laden upstart. Yet despite the cliches, it's a good, satisfying read. Perhaps because of kid-lit gems like this:
In the kitchen there was a cupboard called "The Housemaid's Cupboard." This was always bulging with snacks: game, cold chicken, cold meats, as well as fruit puddings and cakes. Any of the staff could help themselves from that cupboard whenever they felt hungry. Lavinia took a plate and piled on it a rich assortment of food. Then, fetching a knife and fork, she sat down at the table and ate the lot.
The book pays subtle honor to the classic orphan stories; there's more than a hint of Mary, of Anne, of Sarah Crewe. But Margaret is a 20th century heroine, albeit early; at the end, when she's offered the standard dream outcome for an orphan - a rich ready-made family - she reacts:
Her chin shot into the air. "Thank you very much but I don't want to be anyone's daughter. I was not found like an ordinary baby. I had three of everything all marked with crowns and each year lots of money was paid to keep me. I have friends, Hannah and the rector, and I've got a stamp so I am writing to ask them to come and see me act Little Lord Fauntleroy."
This book has a sequel, Far To Go, and was made into a television miniseries by the BBC in 1973. This is available on TV.com
The White Gauntlet
The Children On The Top Floor
The Family At
The Magic Summer
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The House Of Thirty Cats
Mary Calhoun, il. Mary Chalmers
1965, Harper & Row
Sarah Rutledge is lonely since her only friend moved away, so her mother says she can have a kitten. In the small town where she lives, this means visiting Miss Tabitha Henshaw's little cottage at the edge of town, but Sarah is reluctant to risk breaking the enchantment she instinctively feels hangs around what she privately calls The House of Thirty Cats. What if it turns out to just be another ordinary house? But Sarah wants a kitten, so she shyly starts for the house. But just as she reaches the gate, a prowling black cat attacks another cat without provocation, and as Sarah tries to force the invader off his victim, Miss Tabitha intervenes, mistaking Sarah for the aggressor.
Miss Tabitha realizes her mistake, but although she welcomes the little girl, she also welcomes the black cat, soon dubbed Tarnish. Sarah senses that Tarnish is not the sad wayfarer Miss Tabitha claims, but an evil cat. And Tarnish is soon leading the other cats in midnight forays around town, causing trouble that culminates in a decree that Miss Tabitha must get rid of all but a few of her cats. Which is when shy, dreamy Sarah comes reluctantly out of her introspective world to study her neighbors, searching to fit cats to people. At the same time, she tries to keep Tarnish from hurting her kitten, Lilybug, whose sweetness seems to attract the maurader.
While Miss Tabitha toes the party line on redemption and second chances, it's ultimately Sarah's instant, instinctive judgement of Tarnish that carries the day. Which is so unusual in children's books that it's like a lightning bolt. At the end, she wonders if Tarnish was drawn despite himself to the goodness of the other cats, but her final comment on the cat is Tarnish's possibilities were ended. And though it contains some sadness, it also contains the relief and rightness that Tarnish's evil possibilities are ended.
But apart from this, the book contains various magical scenes, among them the feline birthday party for Horace. And while most of the book is from Sarah's point of view, there is one passage that briefly shows a cat's-eye view of the proceedings in a style that evokes pure cat:
Mine, thought Horace. All for me. Horace sat up proudly in the grass and surveyed his party with satisfaction. Of course all this excitement was just for him. The nose-tickly smells of hot fish and sweet cookies, the woman making a fuss over him, cats dashing around like sillies. All because Horace was wonderful. Of course.
Other Books by the Author
Honestly, Katie John!
Depend On Katie John
Katie John And Heathcliff
Magic In The Alley
White Witch Of Kynance
The Horse Comes First
Cross Country Cat
Henry The Sailor Cat
Henry The Christmas Cat
Blue Ribbon Henry
Wobble The Witch Cat
About the Illustrator
Mary Chalmers was born
Monday, March 30, 2009
also published as The Girl Who Ran Away
Joan G. Robinson, il. Prudence Seward
"I'll run away," said Charley, "that's what I'll do."
Charley, whose real and unused name is Rowan, is a prickly, rambunctious and imaginative girl who likes to draw and hear the story of Lizzie Scrotten.
The story of Lizzie Scrotten was a story of the bad old days, when poor people starved, and people without homes went tramping from workhouse to workhouse.
This beloved story is told and retold, patiently, by the family cook. Charley's favorite part is when Lizzie is alone at night, homeless, and walking along looking longingly into the lighted windows of the cozy homes she's passing. A middle child trapped between a clever older brother and a sickly little brother, Charley dreams of being alone and outcast, set apart.
When she's sent to stay with a favorite aunt, Charley's thrilled - until she reads a note not meant for her eyes, and realizes that aunt Louie hadn't wanted her to come. Betrayed, Charley gets off the train early and sneaks into town instead of going to Louie's house. Finding an old chicken house, Charley seizes on her chance to become Lizzie Scrotten. And for a season, the protected middle-class child becomes a free-spirited child of poverty - albeit a somewhat romantic, Boxcar Childrenesque poverty.
It was dawn when she woke properly. The sky was lightening and the air was full of the twitter of birds. She sprang up and scrambled through the hedge, which was hung with great glistening spiders' webs.
Sleeping in her chicken house and drinking from a garden hose in a nearby yard, Charley keeps a watchful eye on her aunt's house and plays different roles with different people she encounters - a gypsy with a local child, a mute with a shopkeeper, a cripple with a minister - for a variety of reasons both practical and playful. Her most meaningful encounter, though, is with a young man who is also running away, and the conversation they have about it. When a crisis comes, though, Charley discovers that she can't be Lizzie any longer.
A cheerful, interesting read that draws its power from the mundane-turned-fascinating details of Charley's hobo life, and her quick, deep store of tales to spin for the strangers in her aunt's village.
About the author
Most famous for her picture books about Teddy Robinson.
When Marnie Was There
The Adventures of Uncle Lubin
The Dark House of the Sea Witch
Dear Teddy Robinson
Teddy Robinson Himself
Meg and Maxie
The Summer Surprise
The Boxcar Children Gertrude
Roller Skates Ruth Sawyer 1936
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Witches' Bridge (aka The Mystery Of The Witches' Bridge)
Barbee Oliver Carleton
1967, Holt, Rinehart And Winston
Out of the night, and the fog, and the marsh, these three, Doom shall come for thee.
Dan Pride is a 13-year-old orphan who's spent the three years since his parents' deaths as a lonely, largely unwanted resident of English boarding schools. Finally, his reclusive Uncle Julian has agreed to take him into the family house near
Dan, struggling with the loneliness and local hostility, learning who he can trust and what he will believe, finds that family history is both a burden and a link. Desperate to make his distant uncle like him, he determines he'll solve a long-festering mystery at Pride. Years earlier, the curse had struck again when Julian's father had died on a foggy night in the marshes, supposedly on his way back from making peace with their arch-enemies, the Bishop family. The Bishops said he'd never come; the money he'd been carrying was never found. The death had reinvigorated the legend, and turned Julian into an oddity.
He peered through the rain, eager for his first glimpse of the great salt marshes. "What's Pride's Point like?" he asked curiously.
"It's self-sufficient, like the old places, with its own orchard and gardens and such. And it stays the same while the world keeps changing.
The house and holdings of Pride's Point, usually simply called Pride, exert a powerful pull on the story, a sense of place reminiscent of Moorethwaite Manor or Green Knowe. Ancestral homes, the magic of long-standing occupation, the sense of a history shared through the roots of plants and set of stones. It's not a matter of who has the big ancestral house, though; Lamie, the hermit, expresses it most plainly:
My mother made such ointment as this, and her mother before her... They have not gone, you know, theose good people. You see them in the ditches dug in the marsh, and in the cellar holes below... and you see them in the white roses that grow wild now, on all our islands. They brought the roses with them when they came, three hundred years ago and half a world away... They are still here, our first people.
A very well-written book with interesting, believable characters and an engrossing plot.Other Books
The Wonderful Cat Of Cobbie Bean (1957)
The Secret Of Saturday Cove (1961)
Chester Jones (1963)
Benny And The Bear
Friday, March 13, 2009
1943, Longmans, Green & Co.
When R.A.F. officer George Ingleford visits his sailor brother Ginger, he happens upon a group of Norweigans who had been picked up while escaping to
He was being slowly poisoned in
Max, despite his resistance to being Tony - and British - has an unwilling fondness for Dym. And when he finally gets a chance to go back to Germany and the woman he knows as his mother, Dym and his values make it unexpectedly hard for Max to leave.
A well-written and engrossing novel whose characters are slightly quaint but strong and likeable. Some of the imagery is dated and the earnest tone can sound old-fashioned, but it's believable from people in the midst of wondering if the Nazi invasion is really going to suceed - in one chilling moment, a runaway Max contacts a child he knew back home, a child whose parents are double agents now living in England, and the boy responds to the surprise of seeing his little German classmate by asking coolly when did the invasion start? Also impressive is the lack of the smug bullying tone that is unfortunately very common in British children's books from the first half of the 20th century. A very good old book that makes a compelling dilemma out of what should seem like an automatic choice.
The Reb And The Redcoats
The Royal Caravan
Joric And The Dragon (1964)
Scarlet Plume (1953)
Blue Fields (1947)
All Because Of Sixpence (1961)
Change With Me (Gateway)
Danny And The Alabaster
Young Elizabeth Green
Emeralds For The King (aka Green Emeralds For The King) (1938)
In Apple Alley (1966)
Magic In My Shoes
The Sea Queen
Gilly's Tower (Junior Gateway)
The Strawberry Feast
To The City Of
Dark House On The Moss
Redhead At School
Meg Plays Fair
There Was A Key
Peter Of Yellow Gates
The White Kitling
Up A Winding Stair
The Drifting Sands (1971)
The Sapphire Ring
The Silver Angel
The Golden Cap (Gateway Series)
Five Wonders For Wyn (1960)
The City of
The Sea Urchins
The Good Ship Red Lily (1944)
Savery wrote over sixty children's books, and lived to be 101. After taking an English degree at
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Jacqueline Dembar Greene
1984, Walker & Company
"You don't have to be so alone," Jesse offered. "You could make friends with the farmers you've helped. They trust you."
"No, Jess. I won't be accepted in this town unless I stand before the Meeting and confess that the devil's led me to steal and ask the forgiveness of the Meeting. I'll never do it. I'm serving God in my own way and don't need anyone's blessing."
Tom's stubborn, proud and resentful of the minister who bought his family's former home. He may be the perfect New Englander. But he also has a devilish sense of humor, one that bails him out of various human traps and may, in the end, bail him out of his hellish bargain. For the story is true; Beelzebub has bought Tom Cook's soul and is intent on collecting.
A quick, character-first story that blends the stoic blandness of the
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
(originally: The Cat Across The Way)
Ann Huston, il. John Fernie
1968, Scholastic Book Services
10-year-old Lacey is miserable in her new life in
Nicely written and always in character as the point-of-view of a little girl. One of the last generation of those older children's books focused on what were once considered normal child concerns - friendships, family, neighborhood - before we entered the era of 'problem novels.'
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Dancing Shoes (originally published as Wintle's Wonders)
Noel Streatfeild, il. Richard Floethe
1957, Collins (
Edition shown - Dell Yearling, 1981
When Rachel and Hilary Lennox's mother dies, they are taken in by their uncle Tom and his wife, Cora, who runs a
One of the 'shoe' books from Streatfeild and one of several books she wrote about children studying the performing arts in professional schools in
"But suppose I don't want to be made something of?"
Rachel's unhappy question is an attack on her aunt's incessant attempt to make her over into an attractive Wonder, and even the sympathetic Pursey - co-owner of the school and cozy housemother to the entire place - scolds her for her resistance. It is a standard Streafeild answer to make her misfit child a star at some other art; you get the sense that if they hadn't discovered their niche so speedily, they'd have been obligated to force themselves awkwardly into the spot chosen by their guardian.
One oddity, placing the book in an earlier era and different place, is the recurring mention of Hilary's being adopted. Initially, she's not included in Tom and Cora's offer to take in Rachel, and it's mentioned several times that she's not a 'real' sister. The children are adamant that they are sisters, but the adults seem a bit hung up on the adoption thing.
About the Author
The White Gaunlet - website about Noel Streatfeild
About the illustrator
Available at Random House
Other books (shoe books)
Saturday, February 28, 2009
The Diddakoi (aka Gypsy Girl)
1972, The Viking Press
Kezia - Kizzy - Lovell is a half-gypsy orphan being raised by her grandmother in a horse-drawn wagon. But Gran is old and they've stopped travelling, camping permanently in an orchard owned by the reclusive Admiral Cunningham Twiss. When Gran dies and Kizzy's remaining relatives plan to sell her old horse, Joe, to the knacker, she appeals to the Admiral for help. With Joe taken care of, however, Kizzy is in need of a home. She reluctantly agrees to go live with Miss Brooke, but battles between them, and between Kizzy and her suspicious schoolmates, throw her future into question.
Kizzy did not have toys, except an old skipping rope that Gran had bought with some jumbler - travellers are forever buying and selling things. Kizzy did not need toys when she had Joe. She combed him with an old curry comb and brushed his mane and tail; she would sit beside him in the grass, giving him buttercups, of which he was fond; if she lay down beside him he would sometimes push her with his nose; the breath from his nostrils was warm and now and again he would gently lick her face. A horse's lick is clean to a traveller.
Rumer Godden had a unique writing style, one where sentences wend onward until you'd think it was impossible for them to sustain their own weight. But they do. Her simultaneously romantic and practical view of childhood is also unique; her children are both brutal and pragmatic, in a way I do not find completely believable or appealing, but which is a refreshing change from the "What's wrong with poor little Devon that he stuck a pencil through his classmate's head?" approach.
The Diddakoi was re-issued in 2008 by Macmillan, which has also re-issued several other Godden books for children.
The Diddakoi was made into a TV-movie called Kizzi for the BBC.
About The Author
Other Children's Books by Godden
Godden wrote several books about dolls and doll houses.
The Doll's House
The Fairy Doll
The Story of Holly and Ivy
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
Home is a Sailor
The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle
Mr McFadden's Hallowe'en
The Rocking Horse Secret
The Kindle of Kittens
The Dragon Og
The Valiant Chatti-Maker
The Little Chair
Listen to the Nightingale
The Kitchen Madonna
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Margaret J. Anderson
1978, Alfred A. Knopf
Orphaned heiress Marjorie Malcolm-Scott is on her way to
This is a cozy family book, beneath the appearance of a mystery/adventure story. It has many of the classic ingredients of a thrilling mystery/adventure story - an identity swap, a poor little rich girl, orphans, wartime privitation and an abandoned house with a tower and a tragic background - but the real well it draws from is that of a neglected child who finds happiness with unlikely parents in a chaotic time.
When they reached home, they hung up their wet coats. Miss Agnes had socks and slippers warming by the fire for them because she was sure their feet would be cold and wet after walking all the way from the picture house in that awful rain.
Searching For Shona is unusual in several ways. It's set in