Newbery Award Winner Reviews

My New Year's resolution in 2007 was to read the Newbery Medal award winners from my lifetime (the list). I finished those books less than halfway through the year, so I reset my sights on the full list, back to 1922 when it was first awarded. I finished in early September, posting capsule reviews for my friends. I figure that I'll probably continue reading the winners as they get announced, and I thought it might be fun to collect all my mini reviews here. There are spoilers in some of the reviews, but I tried to avoid them when possible.

The Minuteman Library Network was invaluable, the main Cambridge branch in particular stocked almost all the books.


2000 1990 1980 1970 1960 1950 1940 1930 1920

2000's

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (2008). A lovely, spooky and sometimes scary book about a toddler taken in by the denizens of a graveyard when a killer offs his whole family. Bod grows up with the Freedom of the Graveyard, learning from it's supernatural denizens. He makes the traditional "doesn't listen and pays for it" mistakes of a coming of age story but the consequences are more serious. I liked that things didn't work out perfectly for him all the time. My only quibble is that each chapter almost stands alone, though I expected it from reading Gaiman's journal while he was writing the book, it still disrupted the flow of the story. I want to hear more about Silas. :)

The Higher Power of Lucky, Susan Patron (2007) Lucky is a young girl whose mother was electrocuted after a storm downed power lines, and her father (divorced) calls on his first wife to take care of his daughter, in a small town out in the Mojave desert. Lucky's trying to find her higher power, to make her French stepmother stay. Lucky's friends with two boys, a five year old who begs for cookies and asks her to read his book (his mother is also out of the picture), and a champion knot tyer who's her age. She also wants to be a scientist, and always carries a survival gear stuffed backpack. The story's a bit sad overall, as she tries to understand her world and make her mark upon it. The infamous snake biting a dog's scrotum is in the first chapter, and really incidental to the whole story.

Criss cross, Lynne Rae Perkins. (2006) This was a more contemplative novel, following a group of friends who are around 14 years old. It sort of focuses on childhood crushes, but in a really sweet way. Debbie's necklace gets lost and moves from pocket to pocket, falls on the street and is found and eventually returns to her, but I felt that could have been left out, the ties between the characters were strong enough emotionally to not need a physical token passed between them. It felt much like a memoire rather than wish fulfillment, the pairs that I thought would get together passed each other. The geeky/nerdy boy grows up, Debbie learns to let go, and I was almost sad to get to the last pages. Not a lot happens externally, but the internal growth is captivating.

Kira-Kira, Cynthia Kadohata. (2005) Jumping to mid century America (I think), this one follows a young Japanese-American girl from the midwest to the south, and shows how she deals with the move and her sister's illness. Deals matter of factly with how the kids react to the parents having to work more and more to cover medical bills and mortgages. Illustrates a sense of community and family pulling together through tough times. I liked this one, but it wasn't very cheery.

The tale of Despereaux : being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread, Kate DiCamillo. (2004) This one was targeted at a younger audience than I'm used to, the chapters were mega short, and someone had underlined all the big words in the library's copy (which I always find very distracting, it's why I was always really picky about getting clean used textbooks in school). The story starts with a mouse who falls in love with a princess, the rat who hates the princess, and the serving girl that gets drafted into a plot of revenge. The author often addresses the reader directly, it felt similar in tone to the Series of Unfortunate Events, but with less definitions (we're told to go look things up in the dictionary, perfidy especially...). The author also doesn't shy away from featuring less than intelligent characters and showing how they can be manipulated, I think as a warning to kids to not just go along with whatever someone tells you. It's a nice mix of fantasy and fairy tale, but even though the rodents talk, it stops short of magical transformations or cross species marriages. :)

Crispin : the cross of lead, Avi. (2003) Set in 1300's England, it's heavy on the religion (ie everyone's concerned with their immortal soul). Really good depiction of how a villein would react to going outside the boundaries of his tiny village for the first time, as well as an oppressive sense of forces arrayed against a young orphan as he tries to solve the mystery of his name and origins. The religious stuff calmed down a bit as the story went on, and I enjoyed it, though not as much as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

A single shard, Linda Sue Park. (2002) I liked this one a lot. It follows a Korean orphan in the 1100's, who is living under a bridge with a kind man with one good leg. The boy, Tree-ear, apprentices himself to an irascible potter, in the hopes of learning how to make a vase. A year of chopping and hauling wood, cutting and sifting clay and other menial tasks doesn't do it, but he earns food for himself and Crane-man. Then the chance of a royal commission comes along for the potters of the tiny village...

A year down yonder, Richard Peck. (2001) A 15 year old girl from Chicago is sent by her parents to live with her Grandma in rural Illinois during the depression. Grandma is a mean and crafty old coot, and teaches the girl a few tricks. A quick, fun read.

Bud, not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis. (2000) Another Depression era book, about an orphan who runs away from a foster home and the Home that put him there, to find his father. He managed to get from Flint to Grand Rapids and finds the band that features on the flyers that his mother left him. The band leader is a cranky old goat but the members take him under their wing and start teaching him how to play on a recorder and a sax. The boy learns a lot and grows up quickly at 11 years old or so.

1990's

Holes, Louis Sachar. (1999) Set in Texas, a young boy is falsely accused of stealing a baseball star's shoes from a shelter and gets sent to a juvie camp where the boys have to dig holes in a dried up lake. The warden paints her fingernails with venom that enflames skin when she hits people. One supervisor shorts the boy on water when he witnesses the warden hit the super. The past is interwoven with the present, the family curse and an outlaw that robbed the family of their fortune come together when the boy saves another boy as they escape from the hardships of camp. The story is quite convoluted and things happen and are explained by past events, it's amusing but a bit too contrived for my tastes.

Holes, screenplay by Louis Sacher (1999). I heard about this on a list of movies for kids, and I figured I might as well watch the movie version since I've read the book. It was well worth it, it was a good adaptation, and all the actors were spot on. The only two quibbles I have are that Stanley didn't start out chubby (they explained the difficulty in the extras), and they glossed over the pig stealing part of his no good dirty pig stealing great great grandpa (he got a pig from a witch, and forgot to pay her back so the family was cursed). Henry Winkler and Eartha Kitt have supporting roles, and Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight are great as the wardens of Camp Greenlake, where the kids are digging the holes. I'd heard Shia LaBouef's name a few times recently, and he does really well as Stanley. Khleo Thomas though, he stole the show. The kid can say volumes with his eyes, and he's got the sweetest smile. Anyway, yes, recommended, esp. to show to boys in the 8-12 year range.

Out of the dust, Karen Hesse (1998) This is the first book about the Dust Bowl that I've read, it's in the form of a 14 year old girl's diary covering 1934-1935, each short entry marked with a month and a year. The descriptions of living with the omnipresent dust, the storms, the watching for rain, and the interpersonal relationships highlighted by the girl wanting to play piano all bring the time and trials to life.

The view from Saturday, E.L. Konigsburg. (1997) This book engaged me from the beginning, as it covers an Academic Bowl team of 6th graders as they're brought together and compete at the NY state level. I did School Reach in high school and won us a match due to having travelled to the place that a key question was about, exactly as one of the kids did. :) Each section starts with a question being posed and the expected (by the teacher) child ringing in to answer. Then their back story is illustrated, showing how they learned that specific answer. Two of the kids have grandparents that married, another was best man at that wedding, and the fourth invites them all over to his house for tea, by hiding the invitation in a series of clues that each guest has to figure out first. The kids are all smart, in different ways, and they come together to support their teacher (who's come back to teaching after a crippling car accident), and their community comes together to support them as well.

The midwife's apprentice, Karen Cushman. (1996) Set in I think the 1200's, yet another orphan apprentices herself to a harsh master. She plays a few tricks on the village people who tormented her when she was homeless and after she got a job. She learns how to be a midwife despite her mistress trying to keep secrets, but is scared to stand up for herself or acknowledge her learning. She runs away and comes back once she's found her confidence. I didn't really find Alyce sympathetic, but the moral is well illustrated.

Walk two moons, Sharon Creech. (1995) This book is structured around the young heroine telling a story to her grandparents as they drive across country to visit her mother. The story of her friend's mother who disappears, her story about dealing with her own mother's absence, and the story about the road trip wind together, illuminating the events in turn. The inner lives of the children involved are exposed but secrets that are hidden from them are gradually revealed. I liked all the characterisations in this book, and the story brought tears to my eyes at points.

The giver, Lois Lowry. (1994) A young adult science fiction story, about a boy on the cusp of manhood, being selected to be the Receiver of the communities memories. His training exposes him to everything that the community has off loaded onto the Giver because they don't want to know about it (the Giver advises the community) - things like war and pain and cold and sunshine and love and colours. As the scales fall from his eyes, he sees his town turn from a polite utopia to a falsehood driven prison. The ending is ambiguous, I'd like to take the positive interpretation, but the build up is against it. Reminded me a lot of Devil on My Back, but with the forces of change coming from inside the community rather than rebels living outside the walls.

Missing May, Cynthia Rylant. (1993) A young girl is taken in by her aunt and uncle after her parents die. The story starts after May has died, and she and her uncle deal with the hole in their lives. Her uncle is threatening to wind down, but one of Summer's school friends is fairly quirky and comes to visit often, engaging Ob with the idea of a road trip to visit a phsychic to contact May (he's thought that he's felt her presence in the garden). The trip doesn't quite go as planned, but is healing in the end.

Shiloh, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. (1992) This one is geared to younger readers, it's about a boy who finds a dog belonging to his neighbour. The dog loves the boy and is scared of his former owner, and the boy decides to hide the dog to save him from mistreatment. Lies ensue as he builds a pen on the hill and sneaks food and tries to collect cans for recycling to pay for more food for the dog. The boy's basically a good kid, and he wrestles with his moral dilemmas, finally offering to work for the dog's owner to buy Shiloh. The owner tries to cheat the boy but they come to an understanding of each other's ethics before the end. It's a fairly sweet book, and illustrates the consequences of lying and then how to stand up for your beliefs in a better way.
It's set in rural West Virginia and it's not until fairly late in the book that the "modern" world is introduced, when the boy goes over to his friend's house in town. The story doesn't need a lot of context, it's about a boy and a dog in the country, and the town scene seemed almost jarring.

Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli (1991). This was a fun book. An orphaned boy lives homeless and with various families and friendly people and animals, creating a legend in the town of Bridgeport, CT. He takes on bullies, does the impossible, helps out little kids, and tries to find a place for himself. Quite upbeat, but deals with some serious issues (grief, racism) as well.

Number the Stars, Lois Lowry. (1990) Second book by her encountered on the list, totally different from The Giver. This one is set in Denmark during the 1940's, told from the point of view of a young teen as her city is occupied by the Nazi's. Her best friend is Jewish and at first they're both insulated from what the "relocations" mean, but eventually their parents have to tell them what's going on. Some encounters with the Germain soldiers keep the tension dialed up, and the young girls grow up as they learn about the Resistance and get split up.

1980's

Joyful noise : poems for two voices, by Paul Fleischman ; illustrated by Eric Beddows. (1989) This one's neat: the short poems about insects are written to be read with someone else, sometimes alternating lines, sometimes saying them together. The cadence is reminiscent of the bugs themselves, and the illustrations are detailed without being too squicky. :) Lots of scientific information is tucked into the poems as well, and I'd recommend this one for anyone with a young child who's able read on their own.

Lincoln : a photobiography, Russell Freedman. (1988) I didn't know a lot about Abraham Lincoln before reading this, and it gave me a good quick high level introduction to the man and the president. It covers his childhood, his coming of age and lawyering years, his entry into politics and his time as president. Lots of focus on the civil war and emancipation, but it felt like it was skimping on motivations for the changes in his life.

The Whipping Boy Sid Fleischman. (1987) Another take on the Prince and the Pauper story, the whipping boy goes with the prince as the latter runs away. The commoner keeps the prince safe and both learn a bit about the other's point of view. Prince Brat is barely sympathetic, and the whipping boy's punishments aren't portrayed as being as traumatic as they probably were (he doesn't make a peep). Geared to younger readers, but the sense of being pursued by highwaymen that wish to ransom the Prince (which is he? the whipping boy keeps them confused) introduced an element of danger beyond starving to death in the country side. The dancing bear was totally superflouous, it felt like the author wanted to throw in random dark ages references.

Sarah, plain and tall, Patricia MacLachlan. (1986) This is a story about a young girl and her brother and how they react to their father's new wife. It's based on a prairie farm but Sarah comes as a mail order bride from the coast of Maine. She's always talking about the sea and the kids are worried that she misses it so much that she'll leave. It's a sweet story, the adult's interactions are described subtly and the antics of Caleb are endearing and believable.

The Hero and the Crown, Robin McKinley (1985) This is one of the first books that I bought myself, from the Scholastic Book Club when I was living in BC. I've read it so many times I could almost recite the words before I read them, but it was neat doing a re-read in the context of the Newbery winners. Aerin doesn't fit in at court, her Northern mother having a taint of witchery about her and believed to have bespelled the King into marrying her. Aerin's cousins Galanna and Perlith torment her, jealous of her rank, but Tor befriends her and teaches her how to weild a sword. Aerin learns how to make a dragonfire proof ointment and starts to hunt small dragons, which are getting more frequent as the kingdom is stirred up by Northern mischief. The kingdom doesn't really appreciate her help but she loves her land and her people to sacrifice anything for them. This is one of the more adult books, following Aerin from around 14 to 20, and there's some strongly implied nookie at one point. :) Ms. McKinley is one of my favourite authors and since I read this book first it's always been my favourite of hers. I love The Blue Sword as well, set well after Aerin's time in Damar, but I really really really wish I could get more about Aerin, she's a wonderful heroine.

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. (1984) The book is presented in the format of letters that a boy is writing to his favourite author, as well as diary entries that he starts making after a response from Mr. Henshaw. The boy has just moved with his mother to a new town, after she's divorced his trucker father. The father got to keep the family dog, Bandit, for company on his long hauls. The boy wants to become a writer and his letters and diary entries become more fluid as time passes. He writes about missing his dad and his dog, and about how he tries to catch the person who's stealing the good stuff from his lunch bag. I liked this one quite a bit, it showed the boy learning new skills, maturing emotionally, making friends.

Dicey's Song, Cynthia Voigt (1983) This book had me in tears three times, I loved it. It's the second book in Dicey's story, taking up after she gets her brothers and sister to their grandmother's house after their mother wanders off and leaves them. Their mother was found and committed to an asylum in Boston, the kids settle in with their grandmother. Dicey's only 14 or so, but she gets a job working at the grocery store to bring in some money, helps her grandmother with welfare and adoption paper work, and tries to keep taking care of her siblings. School is a bit of a trial for her, she has a hard time letting down her defensive walls, but two people eventually make it past them. One brother is the smart one, one is the fighter, and her sister needs some help keeping up with school - they all pull together to figure out what she needs in order to learn her lessons. The grandmother is a bit stiff and quiet at first, but they learn to read each other soon enough. I liked how the author showed that learning process, it felt like I was learning along with Dicey. I want to find the first book, Homecoming, and see if there's another in the series as well.

A visit to William Blake's inn : poems for innocent and experienced travelers by Nancy Willard. (1982) This is more of a picture book than anything, the poems aren't that great. I'm not that familiar with Blake's work, so I probably didn't get as much out of it as I could. The illustrations reminded me a bit of the world of "Jasper Morello", though.

Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson (1981). This one is about a young girl living on an island in Chesapeake Bay. Her father is a crab fisherman, her twin sister is a musical prodigy. She and her friend take her skiff out to fish for various things so that she can supplement the family income. A stranger moves into a creepy old house and they befriend him. She deals with jealousy over the attention that her sister receives. The setting is neat, but the story takes a right turn near the end, speeding up as people leave the island, and the conclusion is a bit forced.

A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos (1980) Another diary based novel, using the conceit that a womangives her diary to her great-granddaughter. Unfortunately the cover letter gives away a major event in the story and reduces it's impact - well, the author isn't skilled enough to evoke emotions once the event happens in the course of the 2 years. Granted, it's using the stilted formality of a young girl writing in the early 1800's, so that counts against emotionality. The underground railroad is touched upon, living through New Hampshire winters is well illustrated, a new wife appears for her father, her friends flirt, but no real romantic interest for the young girl, nor does it feel like she's really grown up all that much. An interesting window onto the time, though. Bonus point for the use of the word "abecedarian".

1970's

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin (1979) This was a bit of an odd book. A group of people are lured into renting apartments in a building next to the Westing house, and then called together for the reading of Mr. Westing's will. They have to solve a puzzle in order to win the $200M inheritance, but by working together in teams of 2. A bratty young girl is paired with a seamstress, her beautiful sister with an attention seeking secretary who fakes an injury and paints her crutches. A wheelchair bound young boy is paired with the sister's intern fiance, and the boy's brother with the son of the Chinese restauranteur. The groups spy on each other, try to convince others to cooperate, try to figure out how everyone was related to Mr. Westing, and try to figure out the answer to the puzzle. There's a bit of a twist at the end to make it more interesting, but I didn't find myself getting invested in the characters, the story seemed to skim across the tops of their lives.

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson (1978) A re-read from my library, second time through it still brought tears to my eyes, even knowing what was coming. Jessie and Leslie form an unlikely friendship when Leslie moves in next door, and they take refuge from the plagues of the 5th grade in their fort in the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia. Still haven't seen the movie, but I enjoyed the book again.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor (1977) This novel focuses on a young girl and her family living in the south as she learns about discrimination. She'd been sheltered by her independent family as they owned their own land, but there's an alliance of whites who are terrorizing the black community and their family is targeted due to their land being coveted by the richest of the whites. The sense of danger and the inadvertent worsening of their situation by the kids as they stumble into situations they don't quite understand, kept the tension high. The parents tried to explain racism to the kids, but in a way to keep them fighting. It's not a comfortable book, bad things happen in it, but the author is skilled and keeps the story moving and light enough that it shouldn't traumatise young kids too much to learn about burnings and threats of death. Other important lessons are illustrated, about fighting back, about thinking for yourself.

The Grey King, Susan Cooper. (1976) Finally read my way up to the one on the Newbery awards list. This one returns to Will's story, as he takes on his first quest alone. The antagonist this time is very powerful, and the consequences of failure are great. He was very ill and is sent to his cousin's farm in Wales to recover, where he meets the Albino boy Bran, and the crazy mean Caradog Pritchard. People seem to know more about the Old Ones here, and he has some help along the way as he quests for the harp and then must wake the Sleepers. The influences of Arthurian legend on the series becomes crystal clear now. Will has to make some hard choices, and the enemy is waiting to pounce when mistakes are made. I liked books 1 and 3 better than this one, but it was neat to see some of the mystery illuminated. I'll probably track down the 5th book to find out what happens next, though.

M. C. Higgins the Great, Virginia Hamilton. (1975) This one is set in the hills of Ohio (though I had to confirm that, it reads more like regions further south to me). A young man lives on the side of a mountain with his family, and coal mining has left a spoil heap on the slope above them, poisoning their water and threatening to slide down and bury the house if it absorbs more rain. A man comes through, looking for singing voices to record, and collects the mother's voice, engendering hope that she might get called to Nashville to make records so the family can escape danger. But the father doesn't see the danger, and is set on staying. A teenaged girl had given the man with the tape recorder a drive, and she wanders around the tracks of the hills, camping by the lake where the family swims. MC develops a crush on her, but it's clear that they come from totally different worlds. MC's friend Ben is marked as witchy by his red hair and 6 fingers (whole family has them), and fear marks most interactions between the two families. MC is described as very physically talented, a great swimmer, climber, tracker, hunter, but his social skills seem rudimentary. He scares the girl he likes by hunting her, almost kills her taking her through a dangerous underwater tunnel, plays with his friend but won't let him touch him to avoid "witchiness" rubbing off. He wants to save his family but he's not sure how, to stay or to go. It's not a comfortable book to read, but it's interesting.

The Slave Dancer, Paula Fox (1974) A young boy is kidnapped on his way to do an errand for his mother, and bundled on board a ship with his pipe. He's forced to sail with them to Africa where they pick up a cargo hold full of slaves, and then he's responsible for piping for them so that they dance and get exercise and not waste away. He's outraged at his kidnapping and more outraged at the slavery, but the crew keeps him under control through threats and low rations and hard work. Again, not a comfortable book, the captives are dehumanised by the rest of the crew while the young boy tries to befriend them, and lashings and drownings and starvation and sickness make it a horrible journey.

Julie of the wolves, Jean Craighead George (1973). I took a bit of a break reading the non list stuff, and skipped to this one as it's the thinnest on the to-read pile right now. A 13 year old Eskimo girl runs away from her young husband in Alaska and gets lost on the tundra. She learns how to communicate with a pack of wolves and they help each other out as she makes her way back to the coast. Lessons on living in the far north are interwoven with her reactions to the whites settling in and reshaping the communities. Her pen pal wants her to come live in SF with her family, but Julie/Miyax sees the good and the bad of civilised living and has to make her own choice about how to live her life. I liked this one a lot, but I was addicted to Jack London stories when I was young and any tale where the temperature drops to lower than -40C is usually one that I'll like. :)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O'Brien (1972) (aka The Secret of NIMH) Another one of my early book purchases, I'd brought this book back from BC with me when I started to transport my library back to my own apartment. Mrs. Frisby is a field mouse whose son Timothy is recovering from pneumonia and can't be moved without a serious relapse. But the plow is soon going to go through the garden where they've lived for the winter and break up their home, killing them all if they don't move to their summer home. She overcomes her fears and asks a crow, an owl (!) and the rats who live under the rosebush for help. The leader of the rats, Nicodemus, tells her their story, from living in a city sewer near a market to being experimental lab rats, to escaping and learning how to live without stealing. But their plans are also under threat, as NIMH may have found them again. The captain of the rat guards, Justin, was a favourite when I was younger, it was interesing to see how the author encouraged that attitude. Mrs. Frisby is really brave, risking everything to help others, not just her children. The rats want to build a civilisation where they can live without depending on nor being threatened by humans, after being genetically modified by the doctor at NIMH. Big themes are slipped into the story, and I'm glad that I had an excuse to re-read this one. I should try to see the animated movie at some time as well.

Summer of the Swans, Betsy Byars (1971) This was an interesting historical perspective on learning disabilities. The pre-teen's younger brother is probably autistic but that term is never used. The brother wanders away one night, trying to find the swans that the two had seen the day before, and the sister has to examine her reactions to her brother, and figure out how to tone down her protectiveness as it caused a rift between her and a kid in her class over a misunderstanding about her brother's missing watch. The brother's thought processes are heard, and it doesn't seem nearly as realistic as say The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time or The Speed of Dark. It's interesting encountering an out of date element in a kid's story, like when I read science fiction stories from the 1950's or earlier.

Sounder, William H. Armstrong (1970) Told from the perspective of an eldest son, this story is only peripherally about the family coon dog Sounder. The boy's father comes home one night with extra food that they didn't expect to see on a share cropper's wages, and the consequences when the overseer finds the leftovers are dire. The father is beaten and chained up and taken to jail. The boy walks to town with a cake from his mother to his father, and the warden destroys it looking for a file. He doesn't see his father again after he's sentenced, but the boy walks and walks and walks, visiting work camps over the years, trying to find his father. He grows up over those years, and Sounder heals from being shot as the dog tried to prevent the father from being taken. This book isn't as scary in showing the threats to which blacks were subjected as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was, but it shows the aftermath of being deprived of a father over the course of at least 5 years.

1960's

The High King, Lloyd Alexander (1969) I'd only read The Black Cauldron from this series, but the introduction to this book assured me that I didn't need to track down the intervening books to understand this one. That was the case, enough facts were given to round out the character encounters that I never felt lost. I did feel like it would have made it a richer experience if I'd read Taran Wanderer though. Taran, thank the gods, grew up a lot since he went questing after the Black Cauldron, and wasn't annoying in that young boy sort of way. The story moves along quickly, but seems to wrap up way too fast at the end. Echos of Tolkein abound, as well as reminding me of the Dark is Rising books, but they're all harking back to common source material.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg (1968) I'm pretty sure that I read this when I was young, the running away to the Met in NYC was really familiar. It stands up well to an adult view reread, though their search for facts about the mysterious Angel sculpture seemed to go a lot faster this time around. :) I liked the asides from Mrs. B. E. F. that were sprinkled through the text. The kids were engaging, the older sister very detail oriented, the young brother keeping track of the money.

Up a road slowly, Irene Hunt (1967) A young girl goes a bit hysterical after her mother dies, and is sent to live with her aunt, an older school mistress, and her uncle, a pathological liar and alcoholic who lives in a cabin on the property and pretends to write. Julie understands that her uncle is lying, but he's entertaining so she lets herself play along. The house is well out of town, and Julie feels quite isolated at first, but she comes to love and understand her aunt, and find out more about the family history as well. It's a coming of age story, interesting, but didn't engage me as much as I hoped.

I, Juan de Pareja, Elizabeth Borton de Treviño. (1966) This is a historical novel about the slave of a Portuguese painter, Deigo Velazquez. It's not as dire in it's portrayal of the circumstances around slavery, Juan's master loves him, and Juan has a love of painting that he practices in secret (it's against the law for slaves to do any arts). Velazquez becomes the court painter and they travel to Italy a couple of times on buying trips and to meet other artists - Rubens is one. It's an interesting look at that time in history, from a neat perspective. The historical detail is present but not overwhelming to the story.

Shadow of a bull, Maia Wojciechowska, drawings by Alvin Smith. (1965) This one played on my heart strings - a young boy, son of a famous bull fighter, is being shaped by the whole town to become a bull fighter himself. But he's scared stiff. All he knows of his father is what he finds in the museum devoted to his life. Six of the bull fight fans teach him everything they can, but refuse to let him practice until his first fight. Manolo practices secretly at night in his room, and sneaks into a bull pen with is friend to practice as well, all the while stressing out about being forced to face a real live bull. Lots of details are given about bull fighting, and Manolo is vividly drawn. It's set in current at the time of writing Spain, but every time they mention a car it feels like an anachronism, as the whole town is caught up in a traditional lifestyle.

It's like this, Cat, Emily Neville. Pictures by Emil Weiss. (1964) This was a cute story - a teenaged boy adopts a cat, much to the disgust of his dog loving father. He's very much a 50's/60's boy in New York City, shy around girls, but finding a connection with one that he meets on Coney Island. He out grows one friend and makes a new one, innocently visiting Tom and trying to help him out of the bind that a dare that led to a theft put him in. My only complaint with the book is that it ends with a significant milestone for Tom, rather than Dave, the main character.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle. (1963) I really hope that my copy is still in BC, I can't find it on my shelves. It was fun to revisit Mrs. Who, Whatsit, and Which and get to know Meg and Charles Wallace again. I'd forgotten that Calvin had come along with them, he still seemed out of place, not essential to the story line, almost as if Meg couldn't deal with things on her own. They tesser off to the other side of the Dark to try and rescue Mr. Murry, and I still clearly remembered the unfortunate stop on the 2D world. :)

The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare (1962). This was an interesting one, about a fugitive Zealot hanging about on the edges of Jesus's crowds. The young boy ran away into the hills and joined up with a radical gang working to bring back the Kingdom for the Jews. He runs into a set of young twins and befriends them, and is then ordered to cultivate the boy as he's the son of a powerful man in town. The three kids use the sign of a bronze bow to mark their secret communications, and a strong friendship grows up between them all. The encounters with Jesus are powerful, yet not over the top.

Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell (1961). It's a good thing that I didn't read this book when I was 8, or I'd have been trying to build a canoe out of driftwood to run away to an island and live by myself. This is a great story about a girl who opts to stay with her brother when he's left behind as they're being evacuated after their village is decimated by invading Aleuts from Russia. A pack of wild dogs threatens them, and she has to learn to make men's weapons for defense. The language is simple but the story is powerful. She lives very closely to the land, yet is never portrayed as simple.

Onion John, Joseph Krumgold (1960). This is the story of an odd friendship between a quintessential and practical mid century boy and an Eastern European man prone to belief in spirits and rituals. Onion John becomes the town project, and the boy has to translate for him as he's the only one that can piece out what Onion John is saying. Their adventures are a mix of the whimsical and the serious, as the boy learns how to figure out what motivates people as well as himself.

1950's

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare (1959). This was very close to being a historical romance, saved by the practicality of the young girl at it's centre. She took passage from Barbados to Connecticut after her grandfather died, turning up on her aunt's doorstep, but willing to work for her keep, once she understood that there were no slaves to do things for them. She runs afoul of the Puritan townsfolk a few times, as she learns to reign in her impulses. She'd met a young sailor on the trip north, and through him befriends an old woman the town considers to be a witch. In the process, though, the young girl becomes suspected of being a witch herself and stands trial. It reminded me quite a bit of the Outlander books, reimagined for younger people. The interactions between the girl and the sailor are subtle, their growing friendship is spread out over time as he comes back up the river to trade.

Rifles for Watie, Harold Keith (1958). This was a very well researched book, coming out of academic work by the author who studied the American Civil War battles that took place in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. He actually interviewed quite a few veterans of the conflict, and there are many vignettes that I'm sure came direct from their memories. The Union hero, Jeff, is a very considerate boy who makes friends with people and animals wherever he goes. He's gung ho to join up at first, but until his first battle 18 months later, he doesn't really understand what war really means. He falls for a Rebel girl, and has to deal with a sadistic seargent, scouting behind enemy lines, and coming down with malaria. Very much a boys book, but a good primer on that era (there's a note saying how much was changed from history, it's not much, mostly to give the plot a twist.).

Miracles on Maple Hill, Virginia Sorensen (1957) I've read back now to the point in time where veterans of the second world war (actually, it may be the Korean war, it's never made explicit) are featuring in kids novels. Marley's father is "cross and tired" and can't stand arguments, so the family takes a break and goes to Marley's grandmother's house in the country, in the middle of maple syrup production time. We get to read about all the steps in the process as the family pitches in to help their neighbour with his harvest. At first, M's father stays at the house to fix it up while the kids and mom go back to Philly for school, but the family makes the move to the country when they see how much it's helping. Marley's brother is set on exploring everything, and Mr. Chris teaches Marley a lot about plants and animals.It's reminiscent of A Gathering of Days in that even though it's set in the 1950's, their life becomes simplified by their new circumstances.

Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham, illustrated by John O'Hara Cosgrave, II. (1956) Yay for scientist-heroes! :) Nat Bowditch is a bit too small to go for a regular sailor, and is indentured as a clerk in Salem. He's very gifted mathematically, though, and his mentors provide him with books and guidance for his independent study (he had to give up on going to Harvard). His studies pay off when he's taken along on a voyage as the ship's clerk, and over time works his way up to super-cargo. He learns a lot about navigation and teaches the crews, and also finds numerous mistakes in the current maritime guide. He ends up writing his own guide that becomes the new standard. It's based on a true story, and we get to travel with him on his voyages around the world. My only quibble is that the romantic aspects (he does marry) are short changed - it would have almost been better to leave them out all together.

The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong (1955) Set in Friesland, a group of young students take on the task of finding a wagon wheel to put on top of their school, in order to give storks a place to nest again. The kids have all sorts of misadventures looking for wheels, and a vivid picture is painted of life in a village by the dike. The language was very simple, it took me a while to get past that, but the characters are engaging. Lots of life lessons in this one. :)

... and now Miguel, Joseph Krumgold, illustrated by Jean Charlot. (1954) Miguel wants with all his heart to join his father, brothers, and uncles when they take the sheep herd up into the Sangre de Cristo mountains. He takes on extra tasks to prove that he can do them, and wishes to the town's patron saint. Things don't always turn out the way he wants, though. I had a bit of a hard time getting through this one, as Miguel has a very peculiar way of thinking about things, so it took a while to unravel some of the chapters.
Learned lots about sheep herding though!

Secret of the Andes, Ann Nolan Clark (1953). I may need to look on these earlier books as products of their times, as this one felt like it was exoticising the Peruvian Incans. The language of the story is quite simple, the lessons of obedience and loyalty are driven home. The boy is raised by an old man who doesn't tell him anything about his ancestry, but eventually sends him off to Lima to learn on his own. Their interactions with the llamas are sweet though.

Ginger Pye, Eleanor Estes (1952). Again, simple language, seemed dumbed down even for the 9-12 year old protagonists. Lots of digressions, and a paper thin mystery. A boy and his sister earn money to buy a dog, dog disappears, they showcase their town searching for the dog. I didn't really like this one, but the characters were well drawn, the author gave us a glimpse of what kids say versus what adults understand that was pretty well done.

Amos Fortune, Free Man, Elizabeth Yates (1951) Based on the life of a real man who was taken as a slave in Africa and sold in Boston, and worked his way free over the course of 30 years. Very simplistic re-telling of his life, and the racism that Amos accepts cuts a bit too deep into the author's voice for comfort. Not a fun read, though an educational glimpse into life in 18th century New England, and highlights the differences in approaching the subject matter over time.

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli (1950) It's on my bookshelf, but I forgot to pull it off and put it into the to-read pile, will fill this in this weekend. [Updated:] Boy, monks sure do pray a lot. :) Robin is stricken with a disease that costs him the use of his legs at the same time that his household servants are decimated by plague. He's taken in by a monk and a message sent to his father (off fighting the Scots, it's set during the reign of King Edward III). Robin is slowly tranformed from a spoiled noble to a skilled artisan, and proves that even without useful legs, he can be a contributing member of society. In my memory, the story stretched out a lot, but even though it covers quite a few months, the described action is packed into three or four days.

1940's

King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry, illus. by Wesley Dennis. (1949) One of the few Henry horse books that I didn't read as I child, I think. :) This one tells the story of the Godolphin Arabian, from foaling to burial, with a focus on the young Moroccan boy who's his keeper. They're sent to the King of France as a gift, and rejected, get split up and reunited a few times, have good times and bad, and finally end up in England, where the boy helps the stallion sire a foal that shows his good lines. A charming story, and makes me wonder of Black Beauty was partially based on this bit of thoroughbred history.

The twenty-one balloons, written and illustrated by William Pène Du Bois. (1948) I loved this one, it's not often that I'll call a book 'delightful' but this one fits in that category. It starts off with a teacher-balloonist found in the Atlantic on the remains of a platform with 20 balloons floating around him in the sea. He's started off from SF, heading over the Pacific, and soon the whole country is agog to hear his story. He'll only tell it to his explorer's club in SF, so he's rushed across the country on the Presidential train and set up in a bed to tell the tale on stage. It's set in the late 1800's, and has a definite steam punk feel to it. The Restaurant Government he encounters appeals to the foodie in me, and the inventions that are mentioned apparently come from a search of old patent files. There's a bit of colonialism inherent in his attitudes, but only one really jarring remark that made me blink.

Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, with lithographs by Ruth Gannett. (1947) Another charming story, I'm pretty sure based on a tale that the author told to her daughter about a doll left behind in NH when they went a bit further south to winter. The doll, Miss Hickory is made of an apple wood twig and has a hickory nut for a head. Her corn cob house gets taken over by a chipmunk and she has to find another place to live for the winter. A crow helps her out by finding a robin's nest that's vacant, and she rallies and makes new clothes from the leaves and moss available in the woods. I could see myself making a similar doll if I'd read this when I was living on a quarter acre of woods in BC. :) The ending isn't fully sweetness and light, but makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

Strawberry girl, written and illustrated by Lois Lenski. (1946) This one I didn't like so much. Possibly due to the Cracker dialect that was used, and the meanness of one of the characters. The main family lives on a small farm in Florida, and are trying to get their strawberry patch going so they can sell the berries. Their neighbours don't believe in fences, and have a bit of a vendetta against them, ruining their crops on a regular basis. The young girl tries to befriend one of the boys, but he flip flops between sympathetic and antagonistic.
The author has written other books set in small communities around America, they might be interesting to check out.

Rabbit Hill, Robert Lawson. (1945) New family moves into the house near where the rabbits and other animals live. The animals can understand the humans, and all the humans have full names. Kind of an odd mix. It's a pleasant book, but didn't really grab me, Miss Hickory dealt with a similar story line, and this didn't quite measure up to it.

Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes (1944). The protagonist pushed my arrogant young man buttons, I didn't like him very much. Granted, there is some character development, from skilled and bullying silversmith to injured casual labourer, to someone tied up in the rebellion fermenting in Boston in the 1770's. The supporting characters were more sympathetic to me, Rab the young printer, Cilla the daughter of the silver smith, and Ms. Lyte, his rich "cousin" (borderline sympathetic in her case, she's got a fairly big sense of entitlement). It was neat reading about the city that I work in as it stood 200+ years ago, and learning how long it took to get to say Lexington or Concord, as well as being reminded that a lot of place names were once people-names (Revere, Adams, Quincy).

Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Janet Gray ; illustrated by Robert Lawson. (1943) This one was strongly reminiscent of The Door in the Wall as it's set in a similar time, and the protagonist is trying to find his father. Adam starts off as a bit of an annoying boy, but grows up as he strikes off on his own and has to support himself on the roads for months as a minstrel. I liked this one. The illustrations were markedly different from the ones he did for Rabbit Hill.

The matchlock gun, Walter D. Edmonds ; illustrated by Paul Lantz. (1942) Really short retelling of a true story, neat illustrations, but ends on a bit of a disturbing note. Mother and her two children are left on a farm with an old matchlock gun in case of indian attack. They attack, and the young boy has to use the gun. The mother is hit with an axe in the shoulder and the house is set on fire, the two kids drag their mom free and sit with her unconscious body and the dead indians until their dad comes back in the morning. Hello, scarred for life...

Call It Courage, Armstrong Sperry (1941) I skipped ahead a bit to read this one after mentioned it in connection to The Island of the Blue Dolphins. In this one, a young Polynesian boy is intent on proving that he's not a coward. He takes a dugout to another island, where cannibals come to do rites as it turns out, and he has to build a new dugout and get himself home before the cannibals find him.
As the boy fends for himself, we get to learn about making dugouts and how to fish and make shelters.
It's a much shorter book than the other one, and told from a boy's point of view instead of a girl's, plus it feels like the author has exoticised the islanders. An interesting read, but definitely a product of its time.

Daniel Boone, James Daugherty. (1940) The author did the illustrations, and they're kind of disturbing, like he was really wanting to do naked people but had to put clothes on them because it's a kids book. The book follows Daniel Boone from childhood to death, but it's ... souless. It reads like a series of "and then he did this" episodes. Motivations aren't really explored, random cameos are made by famous figures of the day (best one was Abraham Lincoln, as it reminded me of the Lincoln book also on the Newbery list, and which was much better done than this one), and Boone's relationship with the natives flip flop between "great Indian fighter" and "great Indian friend".

1930's

Thimble Summer, Elizabeth Enright (1939). This was a sweet book, filled with summer adventures. A 10 year old farm girl finds a thimble and that night the rains come to end a drought. Her adventures throughout the summer are detailed, making me remember those long warm afternoons just playing and having adventures, wandering off without telling anyone and finding my way back when I was ready for food. :)

The White Stag, Kate Seredy (1938). I was a bit surprised to encounter a kid's book about Atilla the Hun, but the front flap advertised it as for "mature minds". :) It follows the story of the Magyars and the Huns from Atilla's great grandfather's day, as he passes on power to his sons, Magyar and Hunor. The tribe is searching for a homeland, and wanders far, first in peace, then thundering down upon other lands with swords swinging from horseback. The book glosses over the scale of the depredations, but once we get to Atilla's foretold birth, it covers how he's taught to be self sufficient, to ride before he can walk, and how he's carried into battle as a talisman when still a babe in arms. The illustrations are powerful and bring the story to life.

Roller Skates, Ruth Sawyer (1937). Lucinda is a 10 year old girl living in New York City in the 1890's. Her parents went to Italy for a year, and she's a pretend orphan living with a teacher and the teacher's sister. Her family really didn't know how to deal with her, she's full of energy, prone to tantrums when she's boxed in, and makes friends at all levels of society (much to her society maven Aunt Emily's horror). The year living as she wishes (she just has to write down where she'll be on a piece of paper for the Misses Peters to find), lets her spirit embrace life, and she makes the most of NYC. She befriends (and often helps out) a hansom cab driver (and family), a fruit stand boy (and family), a rag picker (and mule), the poor family upstairs, a Chinese "princess", an Irish beat cop, a reporter, and basically charms everyone that she crosses paths with. Except for Aunt Emily, who requires that she come for sewing lessons, on her best behaviour, once a week. Her uncle finally rescues her from the sewing by reading her plays in his library, and she embraces the theatre with her whole heart. It's not all sunshine, a couple of tragedies mark the year, but it's a wonderful slice of life through the eyes of an enthusiastic child (who roller skates everywhere that she can get away with doing so).

Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink (1936). It's 1864 in the semi-wilds of Wisconsin, and Caddie Woodlawn is an eleven year old red headed tomboy. She forms a trio with her two brothers and they ford the river to visit the native village on the other side, they raft on the lake, pick berries, plow the field, churn butter, got to the one room school house when the shared teacher is there. Her uncle "borrows" her dog to train him for hunting, but Indian John gives her his dog to care for over the summer. Caddie kicks against being made into a proper young lady, aided and abetted by her father who believes that she needs to run around outside to keep her health. The stories were told to the author by her grandmother, but are ably interpreted by the younger woman who brings the farm and it's characters to life. I liked this one better than some of the other stories I've read with similar settings, this was a more enjoyable read than A Gathering of Days.

Dobry, Monica Shannon (1935). This book taught me quite a bit about Bulgaria, and interesting companion to The White Stag. Dobry is a young boy living a peasant life in a fairly isolated mountain village. He's not a typical peasant though, his grandfather is a master story teller (we get to hear a few of them inset in the text), his father died in the war, and his mother is bringing him up alone. His best friend is the daughter of the shoe maker, who's lost her mother. Dobry is filled with joy and interest in everything that he sees. There's a definite line that you can draw through the book, in the first part he's growing up and running around, in the second he realises that he wants to be an artist, and tends the village cows to afford materials, and is always drawing and carving and working in clay to capture the beauty around him. The pace of life in a working village is well illustrated, but seeing it all through Dobry's eyes give it a magical tinge.

Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women, Cornelia Meigs (1934). Another book that encompasses the Civil War, spanning most of the 1800's, this book is a lovely biography of Louisa May Alcott. I hadn't realised that she lived in and around Boston for most of her life, though the geography is only mentioned as it touches on the life of her family (the farm that they tried to start esp.). It felt as if the author immersed herself in Alcott's books and then wrote in a similar style. It's kind of scary to read about how people dealt with illness in the 1800's, Alcott's time as a nurse in Washington during the Civil War left her ill for months afterward. It was heartwarming to get to the end of the book and see her financial struggles finally end.

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, Elizabeth Lewis (1933). Yay! An historical book that doesn't mention the American Civil War! :) It's set in Chungking, China, around 1900 (I think), and follows Fu Yuin-fah from the moment he and his widowed mother move to the city from a farm and he takes up his apprenticeship to a coppersmith, Tang. The supporting characters are well drawn, and we see Young Fu mature as the years pass and he takes over providing for his mother, and his quickness earns him praise from his master. But he's also tempered by the scholar upstairs, who teaches him to read and write, by the soldiers of the various warlords that take turns controlling the city, by his master forcing him to learn *all* the skills including the boring ones, by the bandits that attack on the river, and by the river itself. There are some really sweet moments where he finds ways to get out of the trouble that his curiosity and impetuousness gets him into (like selling snow as dragon's breath), and it's a vivid picture of life in a Chinese city. There's a section of notes at the end comparing how life changed after Mao took power after when the story was set, which is interesting to read from the perspective of the post-Mao world. It felt like I learned a bit, but it didn't feel forced down my throat.

Waterless Mountain, Laura Adams Armer (1932). The book starts off with an introduction written by a cowboy who encounters the author, and is told that she convinced a Navaho medicine man to allow outsiders to view a sand painting. They see the painting and befriend the author. Then the novel kicks in, about a young boy who is destined to become a medicine man. He sees the beauty in everything, and is guided by his feelings and his visions. At one point he rides off into the west to reach the sea, and eventually gets there with the help of the trader who's befriended him, as well as his family. The story mostly stays focused on Navaho life, but also shows the impact that the whites have made - cars, reservoirs, trading posts, and one man driven by alcohol to theft and arson. The trader's sister is a less sympathetic character, but appears infrequently. It was neat seeing some things through new eyes (ghosts on the screen instead of a film showing a relative who died after his home was flooded). It's a quiet, contemplative book.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Elizabeth Coatsworth, illustrated by Lynd Ward (1931) This is almost a picture book, short sections of text interspersed with beautiful ink paintings (made on rice paper and then copied into the book), as well as some short songs/poems. A cat is bought by the housekeeper of a Japanese artist, and the next day the temple commissions the artist to make a painting showing the death of the Buddha. The cat oversees the painting but protests (in a dignified and cat-like way) about there not being a cat in the line up of animals that came to receive a blessing. It was interesting reading about the artist meditating on Prince Siddhartha after having listened to the audio book version of "Siddhartha" by Hesse, the narrators voice was still strong in my memory. The title of the book is a bit misleading, but I guess "The Cat Who Went to Nirvana" wouldn't have sold as well in the West. :)

Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, Rachel Field (1930). This title had caught at my eye most every time I checked the list for my next book. It turns out that it's the story of a doll, carved from a small piece of mountain ash wood in Maine during a winter in the early 1800's. She's writing her memoirs in an antique shop in the early 1900's, and she's lived a more interesting life than most of the people who owned her. She trades hands via mischance, theft, shipwreck, crow-napping, being abandoned in a mail office's lost packages pile, being stuffed in the corner of a sofa that goes into the attic for years, and more. The conceit wears a bit thin in places (she can't really move but she implies that she could) but she's so charming about it and happy each time someone gets her who will appreciate her and refurbish her. She spends time as an artist model, a South Pacific island idol, a dress model, and both a treasured and a barely tolerated child's toy. It's interesting watching along with her as technology and social mores change over the course of a century.

1920's

The Trumpeter of Krakow, Eric P. Kelly (1929). The book starts off with the history of the heynal, the trumpeter's song that is blown from a church tower in Krakow, once to each cardinal direction, on the hour every hour. It's currently played with the last few notes cut short, to honour the memory of the young trumpeter who stayed at his post unto death, shot with a Tartar arrow as he neared the end of the song in 1241. The main story starts up in 1461, with a man coming from the Ukraine with a treasure hidden in a pumpkin shell, fleeing the destruction of farm and finding new work as the trumpeter of Krakow. His son is trained to play the broken song as well, and it's used as warning when thieves follow the family and try to regain the treasure. The family is living underneath an alchemist who falls under the hypnotic sway of an evil apprentice, and ends up doing deeds that drive him a little mad. The research is top notch, the author describes clothing of the 15th century with great detail, and gives a good sense of urban life at the time. The focus is a tiny bit scattered, the son that I was expecting to be the main viewpoint is only given the narrating voice every so often. It's a neat historical window into Poland though, and an enjoyable read.
In an odd coincidence, the next book that I started is set in 13th century Poland, but it involves a time traveler trying to get the country ready to resist the Mongol hordes. :)

Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff (1928). This title has jumped out at me from the list as well, as I wondered how a story about a domesticated bird could be engaging. It turns out that Gay-Neck was bred and hatched in India, by a teenaged pigeon fancier. The language definitely harkens back to an older time, and there are some conversational flourishes that are charming to read. The novel covers Gay-Neck from birth to training to mating to being a courier pigeon during the war in Europe, and his recovery from the traumas that he went through there. The young man's friend, a great hunter, and a monastery full of holy men, aid in Gay-Neck's rehabilitation. The illustrations were beautiful, strong black and white silhouettes of birds, animals and planes, often edged with geometric designs.

Smoky the Cow Horse, Will James (1927) It took me a while to get into this one, as it's written in cowboy speak, but I finally picked up the rhythm and it's flowed along well. It's a story about the horse, but the cowboy who first breaks him and trains him to be a cow horse gives tons of details about working on a cattle ranch. Smoky gets stolen and sold to a rodeo as a bucking bronco, and conditions deteriorate from there. It's not really sentimentalised at all, it reads like an ode to real working horses. The only thing that really marks it as a book for kids is that all of a sudden they start referring to Smoky as a gelding, without any mention of how he got that way. :)

Shen of the Sea, Arthur Bowie Chrisman (1926) The subtitle on this one is "Chinese Stories for Children", and they're utterly charming. Shen isn't a boy who runs to sea, they're the demons that threaten to flood a plain and drown a capital city, but the king outsmarts them and traps them in a jade bottle (lots of beautiful imagery in this one). They remind me of just-so stories, the book includes tales of how printing, chopsticks, kites, writing and other things came to be. There's lots of vocabulary (though no pronunciation guide), and it reminded me of the stories that Young Fu might have heard. :)

Tales from Silver Lands, Charles Finger (1925) Stories from South America, some framed by "I was prospecting for gold/hiking across the Andes/over nighted in a town", some just told straight up. It felt like an original source for the [colour] Fairy Books, very enjoyable and quick read. Some of the stories felt similar to others I've read (evil monster type thing pursuing fleeing couple who throw up magical barriers) and some were totally unique.

The Dark Frigate, Charles Hawes (1924) Sort of like "Treasure Island" but oddly enough not so dark. Don't read the summary or the subtitle or the intro if you want to approach the story with fresh eyes, everything's given away. The sailing terminology was confusing - I swear he was just making some of it up, or stringing together random words that sounded nautical. The hero is an easy going sailor that falls in with pirates, it doesn't really feel like he's the master of his own fate. I didn't like this one as much as I thought I would.

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Hugh Lofting (1923) Very quick read, and oddly enough, they got the sailing terminology right. :) The intro also gave much of it away (I think assuming that everyone's read it already), but I have to agree with the text of it: Lofting really gets into the mind of a child and a child's logic prevails in the story. There are a couple of places where it's jarring, but it makes "sense" after a bit. I had a bit of a hard time keeping the names straight for all the animals, but overall enjoyed the book.

The Story of Mankind, Hendrik Willem van Loon (1922) Wow, from cro-magnum's to the WWW in less than 600 pages. Information overload, but a decent summary of the major events in humanity's time line. Some things got half a sentence, others got tons of space - WWI was skimpy as it was written just after the war ended, but WWII had copious details added in a later update. Reading the first part was interesting as it was firmly grounded in the sensibilities of the 1920's, and the later updates were a bit jarring. It was neat reading the chapter on Napoleon and the extensive dips into French history after having just been in Paris. It also put tons of stuff into context in a this came before that, and then this other thing happened over here, and then they collided here. Nothing on the tea trade, which was a bit disappointing, just a mention of how steam ships cut the ocean crossing times dramatically. Made me recall tours I've taken of famous landmarks, and historical fiction that I've read. Absolutely no references for anything, which annoyed me in the chapter with two Roman letters talking about Paul and Joshua/Jesus, but the book would have been twice as large with them. The illustrated chronology was good for a chuckle at the Dark Ages sketch. :)