For those of you who love the D’Aulaire biographies I think you’ll be interested to read the following article which concerns the New York Public Librarian who first established the children’s library in America–Anne Carroll Moore. While she was the inspiration for Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire to first write and illustrate children’s books, her relationship with another beloved author–E.B. White was less than amiable. After having urged him for years to write a children’s book, she became his most stalwart critic and literally banned Stuart Little from the NY Public Library. Interesting and distressing, but true. E.B. White’s ability to stand in the face of her unremitting resistance to his work is a lesson for all of us in staying true to your mission and vision. If he hadn’t, one of the world’s most priceless and beloved children’s tales–Charlotte’s Web, would never have been written. Here is the link: The Lion and the MouseContinue reading Anne Carroll Moore and the D’Aulaires
I’ve just returned from CHEA–which for those readers outside of California is the California Home Educators annual conference held in Pasadena. I spoke there a number of times and had the delightful opportunity to connect with many of you and I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog so we can continue to keep in touch! We talked and talked and talked some more about good books and it was wonderful to hear your stories about how good books have changed your lives! One beautiful young mother came up and shared how hearing me talk about the power of good books a few years ago had totally changed the direction of her family’s home schooling journey and delightfully so. They decided to scrap the textbooks and entered on the wonderful journey of literature! Thank you, Monica for sharing! Loretta persevered in her commitment to the power of literature over a traditional academic approach despite the often disparaging comments of friends–you know, the “What do you actually do for school?” “Well, we read great literature.” “Oh . . . really–is that all?” Loretta’s disparaging friends were quite surprised to find her literature rich son accepted to West Point where he is currently in his third year. Many testimonials like this encouraged us to continue to press on sharing our passion and commitment to the canon of literature for its own sake.
So here’s another all-time favorite for summer reading, family read-aloud, character building books. This one is particularly dear to my heart because it offers fathers a sure bet for a read-aloud experience they will look forward to each night! Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is the powerful true story of young Ralph Moody, who in 1906 moves from New Hampshire to Colorado with his family. Through young Ralph’s eyes we experience the hair-raising adventures of a passionate, impetuous young boy as he and his father attempt to carve out a ranching life amidst the perils of tornadoes, water wars, flash floods, and grinding poverty. Ralph’s perspective offers a lens into the character of a father committed to raising Ralph to be honest at his core. The tender pathos of their conversations, the father’s profound strength when faced with overwhelming difficulties and his devotion to his son all offer lessons rare in our day.
The sequel to Little Britches is Man of the Family. Following this there are 5 more titles in the series. Every family should experience the wonder of these books at some time in the life of their family. We are currently reading Man of the Family to our daughters aged 10 and 15. They love them and beg for more most nights (excepting the ones where we don’t get to read-aloud time till after 9 or 10 pm! Well, it is summer after all!). For our family, this is probably the third time over the years reading this series and repeated readings only increases our devotion. If you’ve enjoyed these books with your family, please let us know your thoughts and how these books impacted you.
Some of my favorite summer reading memories involve Carol Ryrie Brink’s classic Caddie Woodlawn. I loved this book so much I remember being really sad when the publishers redesigned it and eliminated the classic Trina Schart Hyman cover, seen here:
Hyman captured the personality of the vivacious, strong-willed, brave, and just a bit reckless, Caddie. With her flowing hair and one strap slipping off her shoulder – Hyman’s Caddie is the one I think of when I remember these stories. Thankfully the publishers have retained the pen and ink sketches within the text so you won’t have to settle for the image of Caddie as portrayed on the current cover. Anyway, I passed countless summer hours reading and rereading the adventures of Caddie and her brothers. The Woodlawns lived on the edge of the American frontier and this provided ample opportunity for Caddie to exercise her free spirit. A tom-boy at heart she resists the domestic realm in favor of the wide open spaces of the prairie, the dangers of rushing rivers, even the unfamiliarity of an Indian camp. Brink based these stories on the recollections of her grandmother, the original Caddie Woodlawn, and captures the spirit of an age of adventure, hardship, and courage. When I finished Caddie Woodlawn the first time, I promptly reread it, I really hated for the stories to end. I remember being thrilled to discover the sequel, Caddie Woodlawn’s Family, at the library and proceeded to devour it.
Yesterday my husband and I travelled from Edinburgh to upstate New York to spend a week with his family. Upon picking up our rental car and driving the hour and a half to our final destination I managed to navigate the vast expanses of satellite radio to find the Diane Rehm show was doing a 50 year anniversary special on one of my all-time favorite books,To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If interested, you can listen to the program on their website, here. It has been about six months since I’ve been in the States and there could have been no better or more fitting program to listen to as I made the slow adjustment back. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the greatest works of American fiction and has sold over 30 million copies since its publication in 1960. Its themes are both distinctly American and universal making it a book that strikes at the very core of who we are as human beings. Scout’s precocious nature and questioning of the injustice she cannot comprehend as a child have caused countless readers to examine their own prejudices and assumptions. Atticus Fitch, the great literary embodiment of integrity, makes us all want to be more just and courageous and kind. Although I’ve read this book multiple times before it is on my list of must-reads this summer – it is its 50th birthday afterall! A wonderful read-aloud, this is a book that must be shared and discussed. Follow up your reading with a viewing of the classic movie adaptation starring Gregory Peck, playing what, in my opinion, was his greatest role. What do you like best about To Kill a Mockingbird?
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.