Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Author's Corner - Lois Lowry, Joan W. Blos

My last author's corner featured the BFG (Big Friendly Giant), by Roald Dahl.  While he enjoyed Dahl's humor, Peter requested that we only read the BFG during the day. His OCD was telling him a giant would come through his window at night (he had trouble falling asleep one night).  While I did try the day-reading arrangement, I couldn't read it without Mary, age 4, listening in.  She rather liked it, but it wasn't for her age group and didn't seem appropriate.  Paul was disappointed, but I told him he was welcome to finish it on his own.

Not previously an avid reader, Paul soon found himself engrossed in the Magic Tree House book series, so the BFG sits on our shelf, waiting.

The other problem with reading a novel to the boys during the day, is that every paragraph is interrupted by me checking on the two-year-old's whereabouts.  And too many other things have to happen during her one-hour nap, so for now, our novel reading is limited to evenings.

We moved on to Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry (Book Level 4.5).

Number The Stars, by Lois Lowry

Front Cover

Set in 1943 Copenhagen, Denmark, this 1990 Newberry-award winner details the lives of two young best friends, Annemarie and Ellen, during Nazi occupation of Denmark. Ten-year-old Annemarie must be very brave as her family shelters Ellen, who is Jewish, from the Nazis.

Rich in historical detail, this book fascinated us with its expertly woven storyline. Many tears were shed, mostly Momma's, who found it so intriguing she stayed up late one night and finished all 137 pages.

Seriously, Newberry medal books always leave me wanting more, more, more!  I can't put them down, even if it means going to bed at 3:30 AM. Reading ahead prevents my lack of self-discipline from keeping my boys up too late.

More information about Lois Lowry, now in her seventies, can be found at her personal website, which features her autobiography.

Also on her website, Lois lists the Newberry Medal winners from 1922 through 2005.  She won another Newberry in 1994, for The Giver.

Following Number the Stars, we read a 1980 Newberry Medal winner entitled A Gathering of Days; A New England Girl's Journal, by Joan W. Blos. (Book Level 6.1)

A Gathering of Days, by Joan W. Blos

Front Cover

Set in 1830, this novel, written in journey-entry format, details the life of Catherine Hall, a thirteen-year-old New Hampshire resident. Catherine, who has a quiet, lovely, God-fearing personality, takes care of her widowed father and young sister after the death of her mother and baby brother, though the details of these earlier deaths are not part of the novel.

During the two-year journal, Catherine's father remarries, gifting Catherine with a step-mother and a same-age brother. The historical detail, again, is very rich, providing children with an in-depth look at 1830 farm life, as well as some detail about the slavery politics of the day.

Catherine's best friend and neighbor, Cassie, dies during this time. Paul and I shed tears over many pages, but notwithstanding the sadness, this very Christian novel is a gem, keeping even my boys intrigued.  Here is a biography for Joan Blos, born in 1928.

Since finishing A Gathering of Days, I've spent much time wondering what happened to this country's Christian beginnings.  So many of the novels set in Colonial and early America depict deep abiding faith in Jesus Christ. It grieves me to think of the tragic turn America has taken!

Last night we began Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, the 1947 Newberry Medal winner.  We loved the first chapter, detailing the New Hampshire countryside adventures of a doll.  Yes, you read that right.  A doll.  Miss Hickory is an apple-wood twig doll, with a hickory nut for a head.  This is a very imaginative tale, in which the countryside animals, Miss Hickory's companions, are given real-life, intriguing personalities.  I bookmarked this homeschool page, detailing many rich lessons derived from Miss Hickory.

Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey


Laura said...

You have given me a pocket full of gems in this post, Christine. I just finished Man's Search for Meaning not too long ago, and found the stories from the Nazi prison camps so haunting. I am still digesting that one. Thank you for these recommendations.

Margie said...

Oh I remember reading Miss Hickory when I was a girl. Loved that one.