* Justin, reading over my shoulder as I write, would like to point out that he asked me last night if I wanted him to carry them in and I said no. There really was no need for 5 AM scurrying. Let's ignore him.
So kids chapter books. Ten we have read these past few months.
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
This book is about Christmas in Paris, homelessness and a crumudgeonly tramp who finds that he does love kids after all. It is sweet, without being too sweet. Garth Williams (Laura Ingalls Wilder illustrator) did the illustrations.
The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom
Ursula Nordstrom was the Editor-in-chief of Harper & Row Children's department from 1940 to 1973. She was the editor of Charlotte's Web, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Arnold Lobel, and Shel Silverstien. Oh, the greatness! This is the only book she ever wrote, although she did write a sequel to it. Unable to finish it to her satisfaction, she burned the manuscript before her death, which seems a shame.
This book is not all sweet sunshine. The little girl, Victoria, desperately wanting to not be at a boarding school becomes friends with a rather rough and tumble girl, Martha, who enjoys doing things precisely because people tell her not to. Neither girl is that popular. Martha is quite rude. And neither girl has an life altering moment. It is just the story of two girls, with very different strengths, who become friends and finding life the better for that friendship. We loved it.
The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer
The book is full of sunshine, American adventure, pluck, a glorified country life, a boisterous family, and a trolley car. Sometimes it seemed a little too sweet and sunshine-y, but it was fun just the same. Their father loses his job as a trolley car driver to the new-fangled bus, which he refuses to drive. After looking and not finding work, they decide to live in the trolley car he drove all those years for the summer, after an agreement with the trolley car company. After a summer of wonderful country-ness, Pa gives in and gets a job driving bus. There was just enough worry about money and jobs to keep this from being a bit too idyllic. And I sort of love the whole idea of living in a trolley car. Hello, Boxcar Children!
Irma's Big Lie by Carol Ryrie Brink
This was a fun surprise. It was a library book sale book this winter and looked a bit dreary and depressing. But the kids were fascinated with the big lie idea, so we read it. And there was a lot of laughing involved. Basically, it is about a little girl who misses her mother, who had to stay behind to finish up some work while Irma and her father move in with Irma's great Uncle Arnold and Great Aunt Julia. (I had a great aunt Julia and great uncle Arnold, so I appreciated their names.) Irma tells the kids at school about a very large doll she has, in order to have the kids like her. After becoming friends with kids in her new school, Irma is asked to bring her big doll in for a school event. Desperate activity ensues. The ending was a little too... well I felt like it was a little flat. People didn't act the way you expected them to. But on the whole, we liked it!
This is such a 1970's illustration style
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
I loved this book about a girl, Ann, in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness after the Revolutionary War when I was a kid and the girls loved it just as much. (For whatever reason, the reviews on Amazon were scathing. It seems like home school kids were somehow forced to write book reviews on Amazon, round about the year 2000, as part of a book report or something. This book was not a favorite with them.) This is a quiet book, about a girl coming to terms with leaving things behind and appreciating the here and now. It brought tears to my eyes once or twice.
This was one of the tear filled moments. The little girl rebels against the harshness of the frontier, so one day when her mother is away visiting a neighbor, Ann takes down the precious china and takes a few plates to the woods for a tea party with her doll. Her mother returns early, and finds her daughter with the dishes. Ann is sure of a dire punishment, but her mother never says a word, just sits down and joins in the tea party, sitting and talking nonsense all afternoon. When they come in late for making supper to hungry and angry husband and sons, Ann's mother tells them, "Once in a while, there comes a time in the Western country when there is something more important than an hour of work or a meal on time."
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat
Hilarious autobiographical story of Farley Mowat growing up. It is set on the Canadian plains, Saskatoon, to be exact and has lots of naturalist detail and hilarity. I never read this as a kid, although I remember it on the bookshelf. (I think I was too busy with The Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley High. Blush of mortification.) Great pencil and ink drawings.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
A good, solid book. Everyone knows it. I loved it as a kid and I love it now. There is something about the simplicity of it that makes it particularly timeless.
The Tough Winter by Robert Lawson
I had never read any of Robert Lawson's books, but I got several from my school library haul, so I gave this one a whirl. Since we were enduring our own tough winter. I am not crazy about animal stories in general, but this one was pretty good. Funny in spots, naturalist in others, with liberal doses of kindness.
Emil and the Piggy Beast by Astrid Lindgren
Oh, the hilarity! We all loved it. The chapters are more like short stories, since there is no real over arching plot tying them together. Just a year or so in the life of a small Swedish farm boy, who is always doing the wrong thing.
The Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda Van Stockum
We all loved this book. It takes place in World War II Washinton, DC, starting with Mr Mitchell, father of five, leaving for war. The book centers around making do while he is gone. There is something about the whole war time perseverance thing that I love in kids books. I remembered Friendly Gables by Hilda Van Stockum when I was a kid and loving it, but upon investigation this winter, I discovered that Friendly Gables was the third book in a series that is somewhat autobiographical of Hilda Van Stockum. This is the first book of said series. I have the other two waiting patiently on the bookshelf. They will definitely be read.