What....that's the end? Who ends a book like that? For kids? Who. does. that? (I said none of this in audible tones--it was dismay all in my head.)
My son Paul looked at me, started crying, and said, "That's all there is!?" I tried to stay calm and cool, not really saying what I thought. I'm a happy ending kinda gal, but I don't want to project that propensity onto my children. Plus, Peter hadn't reacted yet. I didn't want to influence him one way or the other.
Turns out, Peter just accepted the ending. No problem. Meanwhile, Paul, who must be a happy ending kinda guy, got real mad at the author....stomping to the bathroom to brush his teeth for bed, crying in frustration.
The fact that Paul was so affected hints at how much he loved Miss Hickory, the main character. He did love her. She was spunky, bossy, full of reprimands.....yet caring too. Her antics and her commentary entertained, as did the details of her hard winter, passed in a borrowed robin's nest.
I hesitate to say too much about these books, lest I ruin the story for someone. You'll like Miss Hickory, sure enough--especially if you like nature--but if you prefer happy endings.....well, don't bother with this one then. The ending is more bizarre than sad, but it leaves you with the same emptiness.
Just ask Paul.
The next day I searched our bookshelves for another Newberry winner. My goal is to read all of them aloud before the kids grow up...or at least, all of the morally acceptable ones. We had some with content too mature for their ages (like Jacob Have I Loved), which I need to read first before approving (Did anyone read that one? I read mixed reviews on Amazon), and then some with a grade level too low, technically speaking, to be a read aloud.
One library in the area places all the Newberry and Caldecott winners in one bookshelf. I love that! So easy. But I couldn't get there in time for the night's storytime, so I settled on a short fourth grade book we had at home.
I'll give you some hints and a passage. See if you can guess the novel.
On a night when the moon gazed down like an evil eye, the young prince appeared in Jemmy's chamber.
"Boy! I need a manservant."
Jemmy saw that the prince was wearing a black cloak and carrying a wicker basket the size of a sea chest. "What you up to now? Walkin' in your royal sleep, are you?"
"I'm running away."
Hints: adventure, comedy, humor, fables, folktales and myths, won a Newberry Medal in the 1980's, 4th grade equivalent, three words in the title
Can you name that novel?
Following that short book, we started another Newberry winner, which we're nearly done with. Here is an excerpt:
Rachel and Jerry were in the habit of having discussions as to what was the most important of anything--the most important, or the prettiest, or the best, or the funniest. For instance, in the dictionary, almost their only picture book except for Mr. Pye's books of birds, they had excited discussions over which was the prettiest fish on the shiny colored page of fish, or the prettiest bird, or butterfly. One favorite discussion of theirs was the one they had whenever they played train, calling out like conductors, "New York to Boston!" Which was more important, they asked one another, New York or Boston?
"New York," Jerry would say. "Because it has the Museum of Natural History in it."
"Boston," said Rachel. "Because it sounds more important."
"It just does."
Rachel couldn't explain the reason she thought Boston sounded more important than New York, but it probably had something to do with the roundness of the letters, the B and the o's. For the same reason she thought London sounded more important than Paris, though Paris sounded prettier. Sometimes, since Jerry was one year older than she, she wondered if she, too, should not say, "New York." Still, to her, Boston sounded rounder, bigger, more solid--more important.
Hints: Won a Newberry medal in the 1950's, mostly because it so beautifully, so accurately, captures the essence of childhood. No, it doesn't move at an exciting pace, and the sentences are long, even sometimes awkward. But it deserves to be a classic, nonetheless. The story never leaves the head of a nine- or ten-year-old. Brilliant! Set in a typical, 1950's middle-class neighborhood. Contains an endearing, hilariously funny, church pew dusting scene.
Can you name that novel?