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Category Archives: Children’s Lit

Child in the Manger

child manger

By Liesbet Sleger, A Child in the Manger is a wonderful book to introduce young children (2 – 4 years old) to the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a simple telling with few words that’ll need explanation.

The illustrations look almost like a child’s drawing with their bold outlines. The colors are cheerful as is the tone.

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The Nutcracker

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The Nutcracker, retold by Jean Richardson and illustrated by Francesca Crespi, is a beautiful retelling of of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale. They simplify the story and it’s not as scary as the original.

It’s a good nighttime read to prepare a child for the ballet.  The pictures are charming and the story can be read by a child.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2017 in Children's Lit, fiction, postaweek

 

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Digging a Hole to Heaven

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S. D. Nelson’s children’s book Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys will teach readers about the hardships of the children who had to work deep in the mines during the 19th century. The illustrations are well done and show a sharp contrast between the dark mines and the sunny lives lived above ground. Throughout the story of 12 year old Conall, his brother and miners, Nelson has inserted sidebars with facts about child labor, and mining in particular.

I enjoyed the book, but wish the characters had more depth and personality. Each one was standard cookie cutter. Yet I still recommend the book as an introduction to this aspect of history, that’s usually forgotten.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in 19th Century, book review, Children's Lit, historical fiction, history

 

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Mary Poppins

mary poppins

This month’s book club selection was the children’s classic Mary Poppins. Saving Mr. Banks prepared me for some differences between the film starring Julie Andrews and the actual book, but it led me to think the father was a prominent character, who needed redemption. Well, not in the book, he doesn’t. He’s not a big part of the story.

In fact the book is more of a collection of delightful, imaginative experiences that happen while Mary is with the Banks family. More happens in the novel. Michael and Jane have baby fraternal twin siblings who can understand the communication of animals, stars and all of nature. When they go Christmas shopping with Mary, they meet and help Maia one of the stars in the Pleiades constellation who appears like an almost naked child wearing a simple blue cloth.

Mary is a mystery, a strict mystery. She comes to a family that lost their nanny, but the children weren’t bad so there was no dire need for discipline. Sure they’re not keen on chores, but they get along with each other and seem to obey.

I rewatched the film on my flight to Beijing and Mary’s not all that nice in it either. She’s a stick in the mud and very strict. For some reason though she’s magical and loves imagination, she constantly hides the fact. I was startled that a classic children’s book would end with an adult who pretty much abandons children. Yes, she told everyone she’d leave when the wind blew and she never was one for explanations, but really? Abandonment is terrible for kids and just leaving a job without giving notice is not something we want to encourage. What would Freud say?

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in British Lit, Children's Lit

 

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From Children of the Town

patrician

I found these in a digitized children’s book on the Library of Congress’ website.

The Patrician

Ah, sweet Lucinda, best of girls,
How quick to take advice.
Behold her with unpapered curls,
And frock so rich and nice!

Her haughty stare! Who would suppose
That dress would change her so
Oh, blessed influence of fine clothes,
How much to thee we owe!

The poems are written by Carolyn Wells, who was a rather prolific writer of children’s poetry and prose. These appeared in a collection called Children of Our Town, published in 1902. She was born in 1902, two years after Rose Selfridge.

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The Plebian

Lucinda’s tastes are so depraved;
She likes to play and romp
With children poor and ill-behaved,
Who boast no style or pomp.

Their costumes are not quite correct,
They have no pretty tricks;
Lucinda! pray be more select,
In higher circles mix.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in American Lit, Children's Lit, Library of Congress Digitized, poetry

 

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Silk Umbrellas

silk umb

As I work on my novel for young readers, I thought Carolyn Marsden’s Silk Umbrellas would inspire me. Marsden introduces readers to traditional Thai culture through Noi, a young girl in about 5th grade, and her family. Noi’s grandmother paints silk umbrellas and Noi helps her. The family needs money since the father can’t get gainful employment. Her mother makes mosquito nets and Ting, Noi’s older sister must quit school to contribute to the family’s income.

The writing is very lyrical and romantic. I thought it was a little too dreamy and ideal as I can’t believe that Thai’s are so untouched by modernization and the outside world. Since the umbrellas are sold to foreign tourists, I think I’m right. Noi would be acquainted with things like T shirts, TV and cell phones, even if she learned about them from a friend’s family.

The story is lovely and shows different attitudes towards child labor. Noi pities her sister and hopes to stay in school, while Ting, the sister, is realistic and uncomplaining. She seems to

All in all, I wish there were some images in the book because children would need the visuals to better understand Thailand. The glossary that defines words like Kun Mere (mother) and faring (foreigner) is a help, though I prefer footnotes on the page where each term is used. I’d say Silk Umbrellas is a good book on Thailand, but most certainly shouldn’t be the only book a child reads about the country.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Children's Lit

 

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The Willoughbys

willoughbys

Lois Lowry’s The Willoughby’s is a a charming, cute book about three “old fashioned” children with big vocabularies who wish they were orphans like Pollyanna, Jane Eyre, James from James and the Giant Peach or such. Their parents are churlish much like Matilda’s. It’s an entertaining read that pokes fun at many children’s stories with tongue in cheek humor. I did wonder if many kids would get the jokes and if the story would satisfy those who didn’t.

I must say The Willoughby’s isn’t as good as the books it spoofs. As I read I was always aware of the author’s cleverness and I couldn’t get wrapped up in the story. I was entertained, but not wowed.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Children's Lit

 

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