Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Caleb's Story

Finished Caleb's Story by Patricia MacLachlan. It is the third book in a series of five which began with Sarah, Plain and Tall, which won the Newbery Medal in 1986.

When Caleb is home alone with Sarah and his little sister Cassie during a blizzard he finds a stranger in their barn. He is an old man who is gruff and seems ill. Sarah, always compassionate, invites him into the house. When Papa returns from town he is stunned when he begins to recognize the stranger. The stranger is his father who left when Papa was a boy. Papa is angry that his father has returned after all these years without a word or a letter. Sarah does her best to repair the rift between the two men. All along Caleb is writing about these events in the journal that his older sister has given him.

Caleb is very observant and after a while he begins to realize that his grandfather cannot read. In secret Caleb teaches his grandfather to read and write. His grandfather then writes the letter to his son that he was never able to write before.

I enjoyed this book. It was very brief and even though it has been years since I read Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark, it was very easy to drop back into the lives of these characters.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cat Who Went to Heaven

Finished The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. It won the Newbery Medal in 1931. It is the story of a Japanese painter whose housekeeper brings home a cat from the market instead of food. At first the painter is skeptical, cats are demonic, but after observing the behavior of the cat he changes his mind. The painter is commissioned to paint a mural for the temple of the death of Buddha. The painter imagines himself as Buddha and as each of the animals that Buddha welcomes to Nirvana. The descriptions of each animal are interesting and compassionately written. The cat is the one animal that was not welcomed, but this seems to change by the end of the book. I don't usually enjoy books that are religiously based, but this book is special. "One of the thirty 20th-century children's books every adult should know."--The Horn Book. Unfortunately I cannot seem to locate that list itself.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Little Maid of Provincetown

Finished A Little Maid of Provincetown by Alice Turner Curtis, originally published in 1913. This is the second book in her series of twenty five that I have read. Set during the American Revolution, it is the story of Anne, whose father's fishing boat is captured by the British. The people of the Provincetown Settlement think that Anne's father has turned spy or informant for the British. Anne is taken in by a childless couple who she calls Aunt Martha and Uncle Enos. Anne is taunted by other children who call her spy and traitor. Anne has a plucky spirit and a fierce temper. She throws water and sand in the faces of these children, who then go wailing home. Uncle Enos catches her at it and rather than scolding her for such behavior, he praises Anne for standing up for herself and her father. Anne learns that her father has escaped the British and has joined the American soldiers in Boston. She stows away on Uncle Enos' boat when he sails for Boston in order to try to find her father. Uncle Enos helps her to find him and then Anne carries a message for her father to the leader of the rebels in Newburyport.

This was a fun book. Curtis includes a few British soldiers who are kindly and who rescue Anne when she is in danger. She is not so complimentary of the Native Americans in the region however. This is surprising since the Native Americans in A Little Maid of Nantucket were portrayed in a much more favorable light.

The edition I read was a vintage reissue printed by Applewood Books, the same company that has reissued Nancy Drew books in their original form. Applewood issued twelve titles from the series some time in the 1990s.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles

Finished The Rooster Crows: A Book of American Rhymes and Jingles by Maud and Miska Petersham. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1946. This book has many cheerful illustrations, nursery rhymes, finger games, count off games and jump rope songs, some familiar, some rather peculiar. The Petershams were a husband and wife illustration team who also won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1942 for An American ABC.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

Finished Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll. This was a re-read for me. I probably last read this fifteen years ago, aloud to my daughter. It's hard to believe that she could have followed it. Much like Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator I really preferred the first book. Both first books are complete originals, zany and fun. Both second books are completely off the wall. I realize that Carroll's second book is a masterpiece of logic with complicated chess moves, but that doesn't really interest me. Stories interest me and there really is no actual story in Through the Looking Glass. There are, however, a number of pretty creepy characters, Humpty-Dumpty and Tweedledum and Tweedledee in particular. In a way I suppose it was just too complicated for my taste. A cranky entry, I know.

Some Tame Gazelle

Finished Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym. This was her first published novel. It is the story of two spinster sisters living in a small village in England. Their world is very small and precise. Any changes to it cause tremendous upheaval. There were moments when I was reminded of characters in the first of the Mapp & Lucia books, but I enjoyed this book so much more because I actually liked these characters.

The main character, Belinda, nurses her long unrequited love for their neighbor the Archdeacon. While a small, quiet, sometimes amusing story, I was very drawn to the characters and found myself wondering about them when I was at work and away from the book. Pym novels always have an excellent quote worth saving. One from this book is "If only one could clear out one's mind and heart as ruthlessly as one did one's wardrobe." Next year I will read her next novel Excellent Women.