This is a long, book filled post. Proceed at your own risk.
One thing I was good about while Justin was gone, was getting my kids to bed at a decent time. I used to be shocked that parents would put their kids to bed at 7:30, since the evening was just getting started. And it seemed silly to get the kids into a routine that would be so thoroughly disrupted when we didn't get home from Wednesday night meeting until 9:30. However, their bedtime has gradually been getting earlier and earlier through the years. We generally aimed for 7:30 or 8. Since Justin normally put the kids to bed, so we were in need of a new routine. So I bundled the kids to bed by 7. And then read to them for a good long while. This was also to save my sanity. The later the kids stayed up, the crankier they were, which made me cranky, and everything became much less pleasant after 8 o'clock. So to bed they went.
This reading thing started with Peachtree Island, which was one of the books I nabbed from the school library when they were giving books away. I mentioned it to Mom, and she said it sounded like a book she had loved as a little girl. So I loaned it to her and she discovered several large gaps of missing pages. She ordered a paperback replacement from Amazon so the kids could read it. And I started it a few nights after Justin left, while the kids were eating. They had been fussing around a little and I remembered one of our good friends, whose husband did shift work, saying she would read to her kids while they ate supper, so they wouldn't argue. So we launched in and then, we had to read a little while they were in bed. And one thing led to another....
Our January stack.
I am not one of those one-chapter-a-night parents. I like reading to the kids and we have no shortage of books in the to-read pile, so I figure, why stop at one chapter?
Peachtree Island by Mildred Lawrence
A sweet story of a orphan girl being moved around amongst the relatives. The story starts with her landing with an uncle on Peachtree Island, who is very forgetful, but remembers the important things. It is about growing peaches, being a new girl, finding home, making friends. It has humor, heart, and warmth. You just felt better after reading it. We all loved it.
(Side note, we had company around Christmas who was talking about her great-neice, Araminta, a name I had never hear before, but liked. Then we read Peachtree Island, where one of Cissy's best friends was an Araminta. And then in a later book, The Ordinary Princess, there was another Araminta. One of those, once you hear it, it is everywhere kind of things apparently.)
And illustrations are so important.
Love this style of illustration, very prevalent in the 1950's and 60's.
Drusilla by Emma Brock
The story of a family moving to the Minnesota plains, told from the perspective of the daughter's corn husk doll. It is a good story. Nothing spectacular, but enjoyable enough. My personal favorite in this book was Aunt..... now I forget her name. But it said several times through the book. "...now when it came to thinking unimportant things, Aunt ___ could think very well indeed." This Aunt was the one who worried about making things beautiful and pleasant. Which is important.
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren.
Although Pippi is Astrid Lindgren's poster child, she has quite a few other great books. We all loved this story. It tells the story of kids growing up in Sweden on three adjoining farms who all play together and are noisy, hence the Noisy Village name. It is told from nine year old Lisa's perspective. And it is very similar to talking to a nine year old. It follows the year somewhat, but Lisa tells about her seventh birthday, since that was her favorite one. If she thinks it is interesting, Lisa includes it in the telling. Absolutely charming! Which is cliched sounding, but it is charming! It is a pretty short little book, unfortunately, since you want to know more about these kids. Fortunately, there is a sequel and two picture books. I had picked up "Christmas at Noisy Village" at a book sale a year or two ago and just read it this year. And I knew we had to have the other Noisy Village books.
Ilon Wikland's pictures are awesome!
Happily being pirates in the spring sunshine.
Reading to Grandpa, who is only Britta and Anna's grandpa, but all the kids call him Grandpa.
Betsy-Tacy, and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace
We read Betsy-Tacy several years ago, so this was a logical choice. We loved this one. The Betsy books continue, following Betsy and friends until Betsy is married. I loved the teenage Betsy stories when I was a teenager and I still love them. But I never read the younger Betsy books. So I am rectifying that by reading them to the kids. They are about three best friends in turn of the century Minnesota. There is a lot of laughing involved in reading these books. They are full of impishness, imagination, and the permeating sweetness that is inherent in being young with best friends. Reminds me of growing up surrounded by siblings and cousins and best friends. And there is something about knowing there are plenty books following that makes a book like this so pleasant. Or maybe that is just me.
Lois Lenski illustrations. Which makes the modern front cover a little jarring.
This is the girls making everything pudding, which was one of the kids favorite parts. Gilbert asks if we could read everything pudding most nights.
Ladycake Farm by Mabel Leigh Hunt.
A very sweet story about a black family finally saving up enough to buy the farm they have been working and saving toward for years. It is about the forties/fifties era, so there is some racism from neighbors and townspeople. We read it around Martin Luther King Jr Day, which seemed appropriate. To talk about how awful it was that people would be rude to sweet little kids they had never met just because of the color of their skin. The family's happiness and industry shines through this book. And their bone deep goodness. The father tells his son, as he starts a new school where they will be the only black kids "You keep smiling. Let them do what they will, but you do nothing but keep that smile pasted on your face until you are back home. And sooner or later, they will smile back." It was heartbreaking in some ways, but you couldn't help loving this family that loved everyone.
Awesome combination kind of pictures. There is a picture pertaining to the story, and then an illustrated simile at the bottom. This one was something to do with the puffy white clouds up in the sky, like little babies playing with their toes.
And a little girl who could sing like a sparrow.
And now for the book that isn't going to show up. I started reading The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope to the kids, not realizing it was not the same as the Whitman edition I had read as a little kid. This was the original edition, complete with racism and all. It bothers me when authors write black people as completely incapable of the "th" sound, making everything a "d." As in de horse, dere is no more food, that sort of thing. But I can move past that. After all, there are lot of different dialects. And it is easy enough to just make the correct sound when I am reading, correcting all the d's to th's.
But then it launched into a description of Flossie's dolls and how the black baby the cook and gardener gave her had to be kept carefully segregated from her white dolls. The black baby was allowed to be close, but it was understood that it wasn't really part of the family. Ho, boy! And I wasn't really paying attention, and didn't realize where it was going until I was halfway through this description and didn't want to draw more attention to it then necessary, so I just finished the chapter. But that was the end of that book. I am sure the later editions remove the offensive parts, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I am not particularly on the look out for racism on every side. I understand that we can't judge people, a product of their culture, 80 years ago, to our own current sensibilities. Ma in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, being so terrified of Indians doesn't faze me that much. Pa is there telling her they aren't so bad, and after all, there were several skirmishes between settlers and Natives, where rightly or wrongly, the natives played out to horrifying stereotypes. It is easy enough to tell the kids about the natives defending their lands, and what stereotypes are and why they aren't always true. But no one in the Bobbsey Twins seemed to mind that they were raising sweet little racists. And really, the Bobbsey Twins are rather earnest, not that interesting, and not that funny. So I gave it up as lost.
Sorry if you loved the Bobbsey Twins. I thought I did.
The Ordinary Princess by M M Kaye
I have read several of M M Kaye's adult books and enjoyed them, so when I saw this at Clover's I had to give it a go. This was written by M M Kaye when she was a young girl, visiting a school friend. It is a reaction to the unnecessary beauty every princess from fairy tales possesses. The seventh daughter of the King of Phantasamorania, Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne (Amy for short) had the fairies invited to her christening, which is customary for seventh children. The last fairy gave her the gift of ordinariness. After princes come from all over the land to seek her hand in marriage, only to be repelled by her ordinariness, the princess decides she has had quite enough of this and sets off on her own adventure, which lands her as the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid in the castle of Ambergelder. It ends with her finding her own prince, on her own terms. One of the reviews on Amazon said it bothered her that because this princess had mousy brown hair and freckles, no one could be compelled to marry her. The reviewer thought it was telling her daughter, who has mousy brown hair and freckles that she wasn't beautiful. Which I can sort of sympathize with. In many ways, this is a book about getting out there and making your own destiny, which I love, but I sort of wish it hadn't stressed the unloveliness of ordinary Amy quite so much. But all in all, we liked this. It was funny, cute, with a happy ending. It also included the song "Lavender's Blue" several times, which I have always loved.
M M Kaye did all the illustrations herself and they are sweet pencil line drawings that fit right in.
Betsy's Winterhouse by Carolyn Haywood
I remember reading Carolyn Haywood books when I was little and enjoying them. So I chose a winter themed one to start with. Betsy convinces her father to build a "winterhouse" (basically a rumpus room downstairs) for her and her friends, since they can't use the summerhouse he built outside, during the winter. The story follows their ensuing adventures. There is nothing deep, particularly wise, or morally correct (Betsy sounds a touch spoiled doesn't she?) in this book, but somehow we had a lot of fun reading it. This may have been the book we laughed at the most. Maybe due to overtiredness on my part. Still, we will be reading other Haywood books.
Simple and cute illustrations.
Prairie School by Lois Lenski
Another book from the school library. Lois Lenski has several books with regional flair. This one is based in Northern South Dakota in the 1950's. I was a little unsure about this book at first, since it seemed a bit stiff. There were moments where it seemed like Lenski was trying to get a lot of information about the particular setting out there without really knowing how to get it to flow naturally and normally. Once we worked past that, it was a good book. It actually is based on a true story of a school that corresponded with Lenski through a particularly harsh winter. It is a little remniscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Long Winter, as far as a harsh winter on the plains, but set instead in the 1950's, where they use old army planes to make hay drops for starving cattle. There is also a very human element to this. Lenski doesn't airbrush people. The kids father is a bit pigheaded and somewhat thoughtless and she gives him no real excuse for his behavior. Which I kind of like. Of course, I prefer cozy, and always right fathers, like Pa Ingalls, (I realize I better get a different reference, since this is the third time I have referred to Laura books) but that is pretty unrealistic. Because most normal fathers slip up now and then. And Lenski lets them be normal. I didn't really like the descriptions about the Indian women being "fat squaws," but again, this is something I just tune out while I am reading, changing it to just "Indian woman." There were a few other references that I didn't really like to Indians, so again I just change the wording as I go along. I know I could read modern books that have no such "insensitivities" but there are qualities I like in older books that are not as prevalent in more recent books. And there was nothing inherently mean spirited about their references to Indians, just adhering to stereotypes that I didn't think worth repeating to my kids.
Lois Lenski's drawings. I haven't always like her illustrations, but I am starting to enjoy them more. And they seem to fit these plains people well.