Pictured here are just a few of the wonderful literature selections we will be exploring during my Literature Soirée on the Medieval and Renaissance era. There are a still a few places left, so you can find all the info and grab a spot at this link. I’m excited to share this time with you and all the lovely mamas that are already signed up! The Renaissance era offers such richness to explore, and the seminal texts we will cover will give you the confidence to approach this era with passion and joy! Remember, we will also be discussing Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake, so get out your copy and do a review of this important and (for me at least!) life-changing book! And finally, we have the lovely Bernadette Speakes scheduled to share with us some of her artistry in drama! So come expecting to be enriched, inspired, challenged and equipped for an amazing adventure of learning! Looking forward to seeing you soon! Rea
Last month in Santa Barbara, our new Beautiful Feet representatives came together from around the country to talk about vision, share our lives, and get better acquainted as we look to working together in the future. It was a very special time for all of us, and we thought it might be encouraging to reflect a bit on our experiences and share some photos with you!
Here are some reflections of our time together:
How beautiful it was to spend a weekend surrounded by women who share the same desire to gift their children with a love for great books! There’s something extraordinary in exchanging with another mom an experience we’ve had watching our children light up when they’ve read a story that prompts their minds to think about what they’ve read, and compare it to their own process of thinking or life choices. What continually stands out the most from this weekend is, “there’s power in story”. Over and over again, this theme rang through all of our conversations. It’s this truth that inspired me the most, a truth I hope to instill in my two young warriors. Thank you, Beautiful Feet Books, for your heart-felt desire to deposit something incredibly special into the lives of our family! –Karyn C.
I had such a glorious, refreshing, and magical time with all of you. I am convinced that Beautiful Feet Books are not only the most fun and adventurous time of the day, but it’s our opportunity to bond and connect to each other and the human heart. I am so grateful that God has led me too this. I loved hearing everyone share their stories over laughter, and delicious beautifully arranged meals. The Nicoise salad was just fabulous. Kathy’s passion and quiet yet fiery spirit about her convictions just brought delight to my soul. I along with her, am assured that I want to do every curriculum that is out there with my children or by myself if they are unable to. These amazing stories teach my children, along with myself, the essence of compassion, forgiveness, redemption, and that they too, are part of a great story. I will be shouting “Beautiful Feet” from the roof tops until I am old and gray. I have stumbled upon treasure and look forward to seeing how many more families are impacted. It’s so beautiful to witness the hearts being evoked through history and great stories through literature. I had such a memorable and warm time. –Vanessa H.
“Words are how we think; stories are how we link.” Christina Baldwin
As I sat around the patio table, I was awe struck by the stories which were being shared. Each woman’s story was different, but the stories linked us in a common bond. Our common bond is the implementation of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy through the use of “living books.” “Living books” nurture the imagination, feed the soul, and stir the conscience. It was amazing to see how one woman’s influence has rippled out and touched the lives of those who were participating in the discussion and those within each woman’s sphere of influence. –Kathy A.
I had the privilege and most extreme pleasure in being able to participate in a marvelous and inspiring retreat with Beautiful Feet Book’s Rea Berg, Rebecca Manor, Josh Berg, and a group of passionate moms! So lucky was I!! The Beautiful Feet Book’s family is zealous about passing on the legacy of history and literature!! It was an honor to learn from their intensity to learn and grow and pass it on. I loved loved learning from Rea and her reinforcing that my ministry is influencing my children and what better way than through stories that lead to empathy. It is not about just mechanically reading a story but molding my children’s heart through them. Of course, this only happens with the best books and I am always and will be forever inspired by their desire to feed children’s minds and hearts with excellence. They are constantly trying to find new ways of doing this with their ideas of more literary guides of heroes for boys and girls. It was amazing to hear from Rebecca and her love and knowledge for history through her new Medieval guide. I am excited about my children learning from her! Their hearts to meet all of our needs was displayed through their teaching, hanging with family, food and fun! I am so grateful to learn from and pass on all that I have gotten from Beautiful Feet Books!! –Lisa S.
I felt privileged to be part of such a sweet time of sharing our lives together as a group of women, mothers and teachers. Everyone brought something truly unique to the group dynamics and I believe all of us went away inspired and empowered to continue building the lives of our students, children, and grandchildren as we seek to implement CM’s core belief that true education is about life!
Remember that the Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, California, is just 2 months away! I will be speaking there on three topics: Early American History through Literature, Classic Literature for Little Folks, and Charlotte Mason Meets Plato: Restoring the Joy of Education in the Home. Remember that any registration through the above link, Beautiful Feet Books will make a $5 donation to the Patty Pollatos Fund. Thank you so much for your support!
All photos compliments of Lisa Sulewski Photography. All rights reserved. Thank you, Lisa!
Dear Readers, As installment 3 of our Around the World with Caldecott and Newbery, today we visit China! For the purposes of brevity and conciseness, I’ve entitled this book tour through children’s award-winning literature as Around the World with Caldecott and Newbery, but I also include other notable awards such as the British Carnegie Medal, the Kate Greenway medal etc. Occasionally I will throw in a book that just happens to be a personal favorite, and though it may not have won a particular honor, has won credibility by virtue of its timelessness and appeal to children.
For the youngest reader, Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young, won the Caldecott Medal in 1990 and turns the tale of the sweet but gullible Red Riding Hood on its head. In this Chinese version, the wolf is outwitted by three discriminating and resourceful children! Ed Young grew up in China and studied art here in the US. He brings a richness and drama to this tale through his use of ancient Chinese artistic techniques combined with watercolors and pastels. Also by Ed Young, Yeh, Shen: A Cinderella Story from China won the Horn Book Honor in 1983.
The well-loved children’s book author, Jean Fritz, writes the story of her childhood in China in Homesick, My Own Story–winner of the Newbery Honor in 1983. Born in China, Jean’s childhood is rich with vivid memories of her Chinese amahs–her nursemaids, family picnics on the Great Wall, being spat at and called a “foreign devil”, glorious summer vacations on the beach at Peitaiho, and the unrest of impending revolution. Fritz’s memoir draws these stories into a beautiful mix woven with the longing of a young girl for her American “home”–a home she’s never seen. Margot Tomes enhances the text with her delightfully whimsical line drawings.
The House of Sixty Fathers has to be one of my all-time favorite children’s books! First of all, I love Meindert DeJong for his tender depictions of his childhood protagonists. DeJong seems to remember poignantly how he thought as a child, and incorporates that sensibility into his characters. Young Tien Pao has escaped Japanese invading forces on his family’s sampan with his mother, father, three ducklings, the family pig, and his baby sister, Beauty-of-the-Republic. DeJong uses beautiful alliteration to establish the setting.
Rain raised the river. Rain beat down on the sampan where it lay in a long row of sampans tied to the riverbank. Rain drummed down on the mats that were shaped in the form of an arched roof over the middle of the sampan. It clattered hard on the four long oars lying on the top of the roof of mats. The rain found the bullethole in the roof of the mats.”
DeJong was stationed in China as a US Army sergeant during WWII, and the book is based upon his friendship with a young Chinese boy at the time. What follows is the tender, yet gripping story of a young boy, separated from his family during war, and of his relentless and courageous pursuit of them through hostile enemy territory. His remarkable adventures will bring a tear to your eye. Maurice Sendak’s tender illustrations enhance the text. The author won the Newbery Honor for this book in 1957.
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman won the Newbery Medal in 1933 and concerns thirteen-year-old Fu, who comes from the country to Chungking with his widowed mother, where the bustling city offers adventure and his apprenticeship to a coppersmith. Set in the turbulent era of the 1920s, the author has drawn an authentic depiction based upon her own experiences as a missionary to China.
The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean won a Horn Book Fanfare award (2003) a American Library Association award as well as 2 British awards, for its intricately plotted tale of a 13th century Chinese boy who becomes a kite-rider. Kite-riding was believed to predict the fortune or demise of a sea voyage and boys and men were sent up on large kites for this purpose. After Haoyou’s father is killed kite-riding, the boy takes up the profession in order to support his mother. His world is beset by the treachery of the man responsible for his father’s death, and his wicked uncle who forces his mother to labor relentlessly to pay his gambling debts. His adventures take him all over the empire, and even to the tents of the great Kublai Khan.
This is just a taste of the books that will be covered in my upcoming Back-to-School Literature Soirée, which you can register for here. Hope to see you there!
Today, we will visit Korea on our world tour through literature! A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park can broaden a literature approach to Medieval studies by taking the reader to 12th century Korea as viewed through the life of an orphan boy by the name of Tree-ear. The orphan motif is an oft repeated literary device that draws the reader into the story through pathos, and the author doesn’t fail in her use here. Tree-ear’s story is set firmly in the world of the highly skilled pottery artisans of Korea who first invented celadon pottery. Tree-ear learns their delicate but highly painstaking craft under a master potter and then must deliver the master’s works for a royal commission. The journey takes him through danger from both man and beast and teaches Tree-ear perseverance and loyalty. Winner of the Newbery Medal in 2002, this book not only teaches what medieval life was like for the poor, but also teaches the value of friendship and compassion.
So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins won the American Library Association Award in 1987 and tells a story of Korea, but with a twist. The young protagonist Yoko and her family are part of Japanese occupation forces in Korea (Japanoccupied Korea from 1910-1945), and must flee Korea when Japan begins to lose the war. Their harrowing escape and their attempts to pass themselves off as Koreans makes for a gripping and moving work based on the author’s own experiences. Though Japan was the aggressor–and often a cruel and tyrannical one–what Yoko’s tale shows is how women and children are victimized by war, and must summon almost superhuman courage and sacrifice to help those they love.
The last award-winning book on Korea is Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi and is the author’s own biography of her childhood growing up in Korea during the same period as the title above. Sook’s family are involved in resistance movement, and her brothers have been sent to labor camps, while her heroic mother keeps the family factory running and does everything in her power to protect her young female factory workers from the Japanese forces. When war separates Sook from her mother, she and her little brother must escape by themselves. Their journey is heroic, touching and miraculous!
This is just another brief installment on our Around the World tour through award-winning children’s literature which I will be covering in my upcoming Back-to-School Literature Soiree! If interested, go here.
Studying medieval history using a literature approach offers a rich opportunity to mine some fabulous treasures of classic and historic works. The “terms “Middle Ages” and “medieval” were first used by Italian Renaissance historians “as they sought to separate their own rapidly advancing era from what was often referred to as the “Dark Ages.”1 While no one living during the period generally accepted as the Middle Ages (400-1500), considered they were living in a dark age, in contrast to the rapidly advancing, emerging, and awakening world of the Renaissance, the difference was dramatic. This article will present a brief collection of those works that have status in the Western canon, or have achieved noteworthy awards in the world of children’s literature.
Just as no study of the ancient cultures would be complete without its greatest epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, so too the medieval period opens with the first Anglo-Saxon epic–Beowulf. Based upon a Norse myth set in the year 500 AD, the Geat hero Beowulf saves the Danes from the man-eating monster Grendel. There are many excellent editions for children, but one that can be used across many levels is Michael Morpurgo’s, with its lyrical alliteration and vigorous illustrations by award-winning artist Michael Foreman. For junior high students, Ian Serrallier evokes the sparse beauty of the original in his simple straightforward verse in Beowulf the Warrior. For high school students desiring to do the full epic, Seamus Heaney’s Beowulfincludes the original Anglo-Saxon opposite his translation and is notable for winning the UK’s prestigious Whitbread Book Award.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is based upon the legendary Arthur of the late fifth and early sixth century, who seeks to push back the evil and injustice of corrupt lords and Saxon invaders. Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Holy Grail, Merlin, the beautiful Queen Guinevere and the tragic Lady Elaine all continue to capture modern readers. Lady Elaine’s heart-rending story is immortalized in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 19th century poem, “The Lady of Shalot” and would make a rewarding follow up to the study. A popular edition for middle grade students is by Roger Lancelyn Green–a classicist himself and student of C.S. Lewis. Older students will enjoy Howard Pyle‘s edition of this work, with his beautiful line drawings, or The Boy’s King Arthur; the original Scribner’s edition has incomparable illustrations by N. C. Wyeth.
The Viking discovery in North America around the year 1000 is engagingly told in the children’s classic, Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. The D’Aulaire’s lavish stone lithographs feature beautiful Norse runes, majestic fjords, and the muscular beauty of Viking life amidst Northern expanses. Leif Erickson’s North American discovery comprises an important component of the movement of Christianity westward as Leif was converted to Christianity in the courts of the Norwegian King Olav Trygvason; he then carried the gospel to Greenland. This well-researched text has been popular since its original publication in 1940.
The Adventures of Robin Hood reflects the enmity that existed in England subsequent to the Norman Conquest (1066) and which was still a factor over a hundred years later, when Richard the Lionheart came to the throne. Robert Fitzhooth, Earl of Huntington, is unjustly stripped of his lands and must resort to the life of an outlaw, under the assumed name of Robin Hood. Robin and his merry men of Sherwood Forest resist the corrupt civil and religious leaders, and set things aright by “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.” Roger Lancelyn Green and Howard Pyle have both written wonderful editions for middle grade students (and up) and Marcia Williams has a lavishly illustrated edition for primary. N.C.Wyeth’s illustrations for the Scribner’s edition by Paul Creswick captures the romance and adventure of this enduring story.
If any historical drama fulfills Ben Franklin’s adage, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” it is surely the saga of the Great Charter so beautifully told in James Daugherty’s The Magna Charta. The noble Archbishop Stephen Langton, along with his “Army of God”, present heroes for our day, as these brave men stood up to wicked King John and demanded he restore the ancient laws he had so unabashedly trampled underfoot.
Thirteenth and fourteenth-century English life are the subjects, respectively of Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray, which was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1943, and Avi’s Crispin: the Cross of Lead (2003), which won the same distinction sixty years later. Book-ending over half a century of works devoted to Medieval Europe for young readers, these two works echo surprisingly congruent notions of childhood, morality, faith, courage, civil freedoms, and what constitutes rollicking adventure stories for juvenile readers.
Adam Quartermayne, the protagonist of Adam of the Road, is the son of the traveling minstrel, Roger, and together they have some hair-raising and delightful adventures against a colorful swath of medieval life. Crispin and the Cross of Lead, is set just after the Black Death, the plague that wiped out 20 million Europeans between 1347 and 1350. Crispin is orphaned as a result, and in his travels passes through whole villages decimated by the Great Death. A major consequence of the plague was the labor shortage that resulted in the Peasant Revolt of 1381 and contributed to agitation to end the manorial system. Avi incorporates these features into an adventure story, setting the protagonist in the midst of events that furthered the progress of human liberty.
Marguerite De Angeli won the Newbery Medal in 1950 for her novel A Door in the Wall by breaking new ground in highlighting the challenges of physical disabilities. Set during the reign of Edward III (1312-1317), spoiled young Robin is struck by a mysterious disease that leaves him lame–a tragic fate for the son of a knight. After the household servants succumb to the plague, Robin is taken to a monastery by kind Brother Luke, whose gentle lessons impart the courage Robin needs to face his disability. Students who enjoy this read may appreciate Howard Pyle’s beautiful and darkly moving tale, Otto of the Silver Hand, whose protagonist faces physical hardship during the Germanic feudal era of the thirteenth century. Otto’s story is the story of a little boy “who lived and suffered in those dark middle ages, of how he saw both the good and bad of men, and of how, by gentleness and love, and not by strife and hatred, he came at last to stand above other men and to be looked up to by all.”
Geraldine McCaughrean won the Whitbread Award in 1987 for her depiction of a troupe of fourteenth century Mystery Players in A Little Lower Than the Angels. Young Gabriel plays an angel in a traveling play dramatizing gospel stories for the mostly illiterate peasants. Unlike the lighthearted minstrels in Adam of the Road, these traveling players are often run out of town by irate burghers or masters of guilds and have a hard go earning a meager subsistence, keeping out of jail, and traveling unmolested. Young Gabriel’s struggles and moment of awakening provide a satisfying read for middle and upper grade students.
McCaughrean has done an accessible edition of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer suitable for intermediate students. The importance of Chaucer’s tales and their impact on the progress of civil and religious liberty cannot be overstated. Chaucer’s subtle irony exposes the hypocrisy and corruption of the powerful; his humor sheds light upon common human foibles of pride, vanity, greed, and deceit–helping us see ourselves better. Barbara Cohen’s translation combined with the gloriously authentic drawings of Trina Schart Hyman makes a wonderful introduction for all ages. For primary students, Marcia Williams has abridged and edited the tales and enriched them with her whimsical illustrations. Those who enjoy Trina Schart Hyman’s work will appreciate her Caldecott Medal winner, Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges.
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz won the Newbery Medal for 2008, and deservedly so. Schlitz created monologues students could perform that realistically depict the lives of children from the runaway villein, to the village half-wit, to the Lord’s daughter. This is no sanitized depiction, but one full of the pathos of real human voices speaking across the centuries.
The story of the maiden soldier–Joan of Arc, is one of history’s remarkable enigmas, involving as it does, an illiterate peasant girl leading the army of France to victory during the Hundred Year’s War between England and France. Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc is the undisputed classic for high school students. In The Story of Joan of Arc the French artist/author, Maurice Boutet de Monvel, has created a lavish and moving panorama of scenes from a life both tragic and sublime.
Though this brief article cannot do justice to the wealth of literary gems available for this period, students fortunate enough to have the opportunity to read even a handful of these timeless works will find, in the words of Matthew Arnold, “instruction and delight.”
1. Hanawalt, Barbara. A., The Middle Ages: An Illustrated History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. p.7.
Rea Berg is passionate about children's books and has been republishing classic and historical children's literature for the last 30 years through her company Beautiful Feet Books. She also designs guides for teaching elementary and secondary students history using award-winning classic and historic literature. She holds both an undergraduate degree in English from Simmons College, Boston as well as a graduate degree in children's literature.