Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, July 2, 2010


To continue on from yesterday, for middle readers: children ages 8-12 will be inspired by the stories that help give meaning to our country's early history...it's strengths and weaknesses.

Crow and Weasel, by Barry Lopez, illustrated by Tom Pohrt.
Set in a mythical American past, when animals and men spoke the same language, this is a tale inspired by North American Plains Indians. Two young men, Crow and Weasel, come of age together as they set out on a journey to the far north. Their friendship is the driving force behind their courage and a source of moral growth. Beautiful watercolor illustrations.

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
William Kilpatrick (BOOKS THAT BUILD CHARACTER) says, "Myths and folktales reflect man's attempt to understand both his greatness and his ability to inflict and to endure suffering". The 24 folktales in this book were mostly shaped by the "given" of slavery in America and are offered in a wide range of imaginative telling...the title story is a hauntingly beautiful tale of slaves on a plantation who recall the ancient African incantations that allow them to fly. There are also riddle stories and the comic tales of Brer Rabbit - which represent the slaves' need to find ways to maintain dignity while evading their masters' cruelty.

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.
This frontier story is about a young girl named Caddie (modeled after the author's grandmother) who loves her childhood freedom as she romps with her brothers through fields and forests, makes friends with local Indians, and rides rafts on nearby lakes. The hard side of frontier life is also part of this story, but Caddie's family, their values of honesty, hard work, and faith in God, help her feel protected and enable her to grow into an independent young woman. (1935 Newberry Medal winner)

Like the above mentioned book, this story not only records the struggles and hardship of pioneer life but also its many joys. Written in first person, the journal of Catherine Cabot Hall comes to the reader with all the vigor and hope of a young girl coming of age - a principled, refreshing voice.

Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes.
An American classic and Newberry Medal winner set in the time of the Revolution, in 1770's Boston. Johnny, a young silversmith's apprentice, has to leave his beloved trade after his hand is crippled in an accident. Johnny is given a new direction in life after meeting some of the patriots resisting the tyrannical policies set down by King George, and he suddenly finds himself a small, but key player in the events of the Boston Tea Party and skirmishes at Lexington and Concord. My kids loved this story of adventure and Johnny's brave struggle in overcoming his despair.

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane.
One of the most poignant and humane stories about war ever written. We see Henry Fleming go from dreams of glory as he enlists in the Civil War, to the realization that war is far different from what he imagined. Without sermonizing on the horrors of war or sentimentalizing the main character, Crane brings us to the true meaning of courage, as seen through the eyes of a fearful young soldier.

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan.
Set in the late 19th Century, this is the story of a widow and his two children and the woman who becomes wife and mother to this lonely Midwestern farming family. She helps renew their hope and love of the familiar land around them, as she shares her longing for her native Maine and realizes that she would miss them more, if she had the choice to go back.

The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth Speare.
Matt is left to guard his family's newly built cabin, as his father goes to fetch the rest of the family. After suffering some setbacks, Matt befriends an Indian boy, who acts as his guide in helping him learn how to live in the wild and inspires him to respect the life of the Native American people.

Squanto, First Friend to the Pilgrims, by Cathy East Dubowski, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio.
Born in the late 16th Century, Squanto was a member of an Indian tribe living on the coast of Massachusetts. After being kidnapped and taken to Spain, he avoided being sold as a slave, and ended up in England, where he worked and learned English. He returned to Massachusetts as an interpreter and eventually gained freedom. He was a key help to the Pilgrims on the Mayflower as he taught them to survive in the New World.

Mr. Revere and I, by Robert Lawson.
The narrator of this story of Revolutionary hero, Paul Revere, is a horse named Scheherazade ("Sherry"), a proud member of His Majesty, King George's army. Sherry's condescending attitude of the colonists changes as she is slowly convinced of the colonists cause. After being saved by a silversmith named Paul Revere from the fate of a glue factory, she becomes an invaluable part of the beginning stages of the Revolution. Lawson also authored Ben and Me and Captain Kidd's Cat.

Unlike many in politics today, George Washington was not primarily motivated by power. The colonists so admired him that even though they were happy to be rid of British rule, they would have been glad to let him take power after the war ended. But Washington refused to do so. He believed in honesty and integrity and saw the importance of the public good over any personal ambition. To this day, George Washington shines as true model of what a public servant should attain to be.

Frederick Douglass: Voice of Freedom, by Eric Weiner, illustrated by Steven Parton. Frederick Douglass, as a young child slave, was separated from his family when he was given as a "present" to a Baltimore family. The mistress of the house began to teach him to read and over the years Douglass pursued the continuation of reading whenever he could. In 1838, he escaped to New York and freedom. His gift of oratory skills at antislavery meetings helped lead others to freedom and, after the Civil War, he held a number of major government posts.

Harriet and the Runaway Book: The Story of Harriet Beecher Stowe, by Johanna Johnston, illustrated by Ronald Himler.
This biography reveals the inspiring life of the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and how she captured the attention of the world with her book about the harsh realities of slavery. Her book swung public opinion against slavery and President Lincoln greeted her with the words "So this is the little lady who started this great big war."

Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross, by Susan Sloate.
What you may not know about Clara Barton is that she was very shy, but managed to overcome this and gained a reputation as a teacher and gentle disciplinarian, before finding her true vocation as nurse and medical organizer. Very inspiring story!

The Story of Junipero Serra, Brave Adventurer, by Florence Meiman White, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi.
After working to improve the lot of many Mexican Indians, Father Junipero took on the daunting task of establishing missions all along the coast of California. By the end of his lifetime, he had founded nine - from San Diego to San Francisco - and had educated many of the local Indians, as well as intervening as a peacemaker between them and the Spanish soldiers. This book brought California history to life for my children and we loved visiting the many missions that still stand today.

(Several of these books are out of print, but may be found at your local library.  Highlighted books can be purchased through Amazon.com)

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