Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Little House

I've just re-read The Little House by Virginia Le Burton. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1943. This book has been a favorite of mine for years. It tells the story of a little house built way out in the country and the happy years it spends with generations of it's owner's family.

As time passes many changes take place. Horseless carriages appear, roads are built, development springs up around the little house. Eventually it is completely engulfed by a noisy, sooty, thoughtless city. As this happens the facade of the house changes, begins to sag and in the end looks completely heartbroken. One day the great great granddaughter of one of the children who first lived there discovers the house cowering in between two immense skyscrapers. She recognizes it as the house her grandmother once lived in and decides to rescue it. She and her husband make arrangements for the house to be moved ("Traffic was held up for two hours!"). They find the perfect spot to relocate the house back out in the country and then live there with their children.

Burton's illustrations are lovely, warm, intricate and intimate. The facade of the house is truly it's face. When you see it dwarfed by development and progress you want to weep. I love this book very much.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Stolen Lake

Finished The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken, the fourth book in her Wolves Chronicles which began with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, a book I read in 2005 in a thatched cottage on Cruit Island, off the Western coast of Ireland, with the wind howling all around. Perfect.

The story of The Stolen Lake is kind of whacked. Aiken's series features an alternate English history. Dido Twite should be headed back to England after her adventures in Nightbirds on Nantucket but the ship she is a passenger on must detour south to New Cumbria in Roman America to aid an ally of the king. The adventures that take place there are so fantastical that I often found myself reading with very wide eyes. There are a few gruesome moments in this book that made it a little disturbing to read at bedtime, but otherwise it was a very exciting book. I don't understand why Aiken is not more widely read, given the popularity of the Harry Potter books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In My Mother's House

Finished In My Mother's House written by Ann Nolan Clark and illustrated by Velino Herrera. It won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1942. This is a lovely book, told from a child's perspective, about life as a Native American. The book is written in little poetic phrases that emphasize bonds with nature,

"But I like best to think
Of Indian tea
As a tall girl waiting;
An Indian girl waiting,
Standing in the tall grass
And swaying to listen
For the footsteps of someone."

Ann Nolan Clark was a teacher in a school for children of Tesuque pueblo people for 25 years. She also won the Newbery Medal for The Secret of the Andes in 1953.

An American ABC

Finished An American ABC by husband and wife illustrators Maud and Miska Petersham. This book won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1942. In 1946 they won the Caldecott Medal for The Rooster Crows.

Set up in the same manner as "A is for Amy..." this book finds something about American heritage and history for each letter of the alphabet. For each entry there is a page of explanatory text and then a facing illustration page. While the illustrations are colorful and well drawn, they tend to emphasize racial stereotypes. I was curious to see what they would come up with for the letter X. Sadly, X is for Xmas. Need I say more.