Christmas in Sweden, c.1930

Flicka Ricka Dicka and Their New Skates by Maj Lindman

What a lovely Christmas gift this book, with its accompanying set of triplet paper dolls, would be for a doll-playing or ice skating little girl. Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka are Swedish triplets from the 1930’s who each receive a pair of “shiny skates on white shoes” for Christmas. The three blonde Scandinavians go to visit their Uncle Jon and Aunt Lisa after Christmas, and as they are out skating on the pond they make a new friend and have a rather breath-taking adventure.

This new edition of an old storybook, published by Albert Whitman & Company, comes with the afore-mentioned paper dolls. (DO NOT buy paperback editions of these books. The paperbacks are poorly constructed, and the pages fall out with only a little wear.) The illustrations, and the paper dolls, are beautiful, and the story is old-fashioned and charming, with just a hint of danger to spice it up. I loved these books when I was a kid of a girl, and I love them now.

The other books in the series are:
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Three Kittens
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the New Dotted Dresses
Flicka Ricka Dicka Bake a Cake

Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Little Dog
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Strawberries
Flicka Ricka Dicka Go to Market
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Big Red Hen
Flicka Ricka Dicka and Their New Friend
Flicka Ricka Dicka and the Girl Next Door

The ones in italics are the ones I have in my library. I wish I had all of the others—and all of the Snipp Snapp Snurr books, too:

Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Red Shoes
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Big Surprise
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Reindeer
Snipp Snapp Snurr Learn to Swim

Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Buttered Bread
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Gingerbread
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Yellow Sled
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Seven Dogs

Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Big Farm
Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Magic Horse

There’s something about twins and triplets that just intrigued me as a child, and these books still suck me into the small, simple world of a trio of Swedish sisters (or brothers) growing up in the rural halcyon days of the early twentieth century. If it’s idealized, then perhaps we can use a little of the ideal from time to time.

Christmas in France, c. 1930

From Noël for Jeanne-Marie by Françoise Seignobosc:

“Listen, Patapon,” says Jeanne-Marie. “Noël is the birthday of the little Jesus.”

“And there is something more about Noël. If you are very good, Father Noël brings you presents. He comes in the night. No one sees him, no one at all. I put my wooden shoes near the chimney and Father Noël fills them with presents. You will see, Patapon, you will see . . .”

Unfortunately, Patapon is Jeanne-Marie’s pet sheep, and sheep have no wooden shoes to place beside the chimney for Father Noël to fill with presents.

I love both the illustrations and the story in this simple picture book about a little French girl and her pet sheep. Ms. Seignobosc, a French-American author and illustrator who used the pen name of simply “Françoise”, wrote and illustrated over 40 picture books between the years of 1930 and 1960. I would suggest that if you find any of her books about Jeanne-Marie or any of her other lovely picture books that you snap them up. They are not only collector’s items, but they are also delightful, simple stories for reading with preschoolers and for the young at heart.

Take a look at this one about Biquette, the white goat with a lovely special-made coat.
Or Springtime for Jeanne-Marie, one of my favorites.
More from Springtime for Jeanne-Marie.
And here’s some information about another Francoise book, The Thank You Book.

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1930: Art and Entertainment

Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic is exhibited for the first time at The Art Institute of Chicago and awarded a prize of 300 dollars. The painting may be the most recognizable American painting ever produced.

'American Gothic' photo (c) 2007, Mark Heard - license:

Listen to an NPR story on the history of the painting, American Gothic:

Hit songs of 1930:

I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

Body and Soul lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton; and music by Johnny Green.

Georgia on my Mind by Hoagy Carmichael (music) and Stuart Gorrell (lyrics). The song was first recorded on September 15, 1930 in New York by Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra with Bix Beiderbecke on muted cornet and Hoagy Carmichael on vocals.

Here’s an old film of Gershwin playing I Got Rhythm:

1930: Events and Inventions

January 5, 1930. Russian leader Joseph Stalin declares that all farmland in the Soviet Union will henceforth be “collectively owned” by the people. Russian peasant farmers will now be expected to work on huge state-owned collective farms instead of framing their own small plots of land.

February, 1930. In Spain, General Primero de Rivera resigns his military dictatorship. Riots and labor strikes ensue as the government is in disarray.

February 18, 1930. U.S. astronomer Clyde Tombaugh spots a new planet in our solar system and names it Pluto after the Roman god of the underworld. For more information about the life and history of the planet/non-planet Pluto, see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Pluto Files. Reviewed here by S. Krishna. Reviewed by Carrie at Five Minutes for Books.

February 26, 1930. New York City installs traffic lights at Manhattan intersections. The traffic light was developed by black businessman Garrett A. Morgan, who also invented the gas mask.

April 6, 1930. Mahatma Gandhi reaches the coast after a 240-mile protest march across India. There he breaks British laws by making salt in a protest against the British salt tax, a tax that Gandhi has chosen as the first target of satyagraha, his program of non-violent protest and civil disobedience. Read more at Wikipedia about the Salt March.

April 24, 1930. Amy Johnson arrives in Darwin, Australia, the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia. The 10,000 mile flight took the aviator nineteen days in her aircraft called Gipsy Moth.

September 14, 1930. National Socialists (Nazis) win 107 seats in the German Parliament (18.3% of all the votes), making them the second largest party in Germany.

October, 1930. Dr. Gertulio Vargas takes power in Brazil after a revolt topples the President-elect, Dr. Julio Prestes and his party which has ruled Brazil for the past forty years.

December, 1930. Dr. Karl Landsteiner wins the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in identifying the major blood types: A, B, AB, and O.

'Chocolate Chip Cookies Cooling' photo (c) 2009, Kari Sullivan - license:

Sometime in 1930: The chocolate chip cookie is accidentally invented by Ruth Wakefield of Whitman, Massachusetts. “Wakefield is said to have been making chocolate cookies and on running out of regular baker’s chocolate, substituted broken pieces of semi-sweet chocolate from Nestlé thinking that they would melt and mix into the batter. They did not and the chocolate chip cookie was born.”

1930: Books and Literature

Newbery Medal for children’s literature:
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field is a doll story that I never much cared for. However, Amy at Hope Is the Word blog says of Hitty, “I never once grew tired of this story; on the contrary, I was eager each time I picked it up to find out what Hitty was going to experience next. My girls seemed to love it as much as I did.” So maybe I just have an impaired attention span.

Nobel Prize for Literature:
Sinclair Lewis, “”for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters.” Lewis was the first U.S. writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, and he didn’t turn it down as he had his Pulitzer in 1926. Lewis said in a letter in1926 that “by accepting the prizes and approval of these vague institutions we are admitting their authority, publicly confirming them as the final judges of literary excellence, and I inquire whether any prize is worth that subservience.” I suppose Scandinavian judges of literary excellence are more to trusted/served.

Pulitzer Prize for Drama: Marc Connelly, The Green Pastures. I read this play a long time ago from an anthology I found in a closet somewhere. It’s a black dialect version of the highlights of Bible stories, adapted by a white playwright (Marc Connelly) from a book of stories written by another white Southerner (Roark Bradford). I remember being fascinated by the play, but I would imagine that it would be politically incorrect and maybe even offensive to me nowadays.

Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: Conrad Aiken: Selected Poems

Pulitzer Prize for the Novel: Laughing Boy: A Navaho Love Story by Oliver La Farge.

Published in 1930:
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I’ve never read anything by Faulkner. I keep intending to read Faulkner, but the books seem so intimidating—and dark.
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Good book. Good movie.
The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene. The first of the Nancy Drew series.
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Classic picture book.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.
Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers. The beginning of the romance between novelist Harriet Vane and detective and man-about-town Lord Peter Wimsey. the development of the relationship between Miss Vane and Lord Peter is about my favorite in all of literature. It begins with Lord Peter trying to find evidence that will clear Harriet Vane of the charge of murder.
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. A novel “satirising the Bright Young People: decadent young London society between World War I and World War II.” It sounds like something I would like to read someday.

Nothing To Fear by Jackie French Koller

My American History class has reached the era of the Great Depression, the 1930’s, and we’re reading Nothing To Fear by Jackie Koller. This read is going much better than the last book they were asked to read, Christy by Catherine Marshall. Christy is one of my favorite novels, but had I known when I wrote the syllabus that I would have a class of nine fourteen-fifteen year old boys, I might have chosen a different book to exemplify the early twentieth century.

Back to Nothing To Fear. All of the boys were enthusiastic about this one. It’s the story of a boy, Danny Garvey, who lives with his Irish American family—father, mother, and little sister Maureen–in a tenement apartment in New York City in 1932. Like all of the men in Danny’s neighborhood, Danny father is out of work and feeling desperate about providing for his family. Danny’s mother does laundry and ironing from her home for Miss Emily’s Hotel for Young Women. Danny shines shoes to make a few extra pennies.

But when Danny gets in with the wrong crowd and a window gets broken at old man Weissman’s store, Danny learns just how important his good name is to his father and eventually through the course of events, Danny also learns to value his own name and reputation.

Some bad stuff happens in this book, but it ends on a note of hope and perseverance. Danny and his mother trust in God and President Roosevelt to get them through the Depression, a trust somewhat misplaced in my opinion, but it’s true to the era and matches the stories that I’ve heard from people who lived during the 1930’s. Danny and his mom and all their neighbors are ecstatic when Roosevelt is elected, and even though, again realistically, the election of Roosevelt does nothing to improve the Garveys’ lives, they still cling to the hope that FDR will do something to end the Depression and return the country to prosperity. It reminds me of people nowadays who still maintain that President Obama will get our economy going again, except that I don’t think we’re as desperate as people were during the Great Depression. Therefore, we have a little room to see clearly that Obama is not our rescuer. FDR was any port in a storm and too much of a last chance for people to give up on him, even when he didn’t/couldn’t deliver.

I would recommend Nothing To Fear for boys ages 12-16 who are studying the Depression era in history or who just enjoy history and historical fiction. A few other recommended fiction books set in the same time period for children and young adults:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. Cassie Logan lives with her family in rural Mississippi and experiences the family closeness and racial tensions of the 1930’s time period.

I like these Dear America diaries:
Christmas After All: The Great Depression Diary of Minnie Swift. Indianapolis, IN, 1932 by Kathryn Lasky.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Diary of Bess Brennan, The Perkins School for the Blind, 1932 by Barry Denenburg.
Survival in the Storm: The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards, Dalhart, Texas, 1935 by Katelyn Janke.

Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. Winner of the 2001 Newbery Medal. Fifteen year old Mary Alice is sent downstate to live with Grandma Dowdel while her Ma and Pa stay in Chicago to work.
Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Bud, not Buddy, Caldwell is an orphan who thinks he might just have a dad, Herman E. Calloway, bass player for the Dusky Devastators of the Depression. Will he find Calloway, and is Calloway really his father?
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is the story of a girl, twelve year old Abilene Tucker, whose father, Gideon, is a hobo. Abilene and her dad have been riding the rails together for as long as she can remember, but now (summer, 1936) Gideon has sent Abilene to live with an old friend of his in Manifest, Kansas while Gideon takes a job on the railroad back in Iowa. 2010 Newbery Award winner. Semicolon review here.
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher. For older teens and adults. Semicolon review here.
William S. and the Great Escape by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. William escapes his abusive home along with his little sister and brother, but can the three fugitives find a place to call home in a time when home is hard to find? Semicolon review here.
Turtle in Paradise by Jenifer L. Holm. Semicolon review here. Take one eleven year girl named Turtle with eyes as “gray as soot” who sees things exactly as they are. Plunk her down in Key West, Florida with her Aunt Minnie the Diaper Gang and a bunch of Conch (adj. native or resident of the Florida Keys) relatives and Conch cousins with nicknames like Pork Chop and Too Bad and Slow Poke.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

I read Al Capone Does My Shirts by the same author last February, and I thought it was a good premise, well-executed. A group of kids living on Alcatraz Island in the 1930’s learn to get along with each other and to co-exist with the convicts who share their island home. Moose is the protagonist, an easy-going kid who loves and protects his autistic sister Natalie even though her behavior is sometimes difficult to understand and to explain to others.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes continues the story of Moose, Natalie, their parents and Moose’s other friends on Alcatraz. Natalie has been accepted into The Esther Marinoff School, a special school for mentally handicapped children, and Moose think that his letter appealing to Al Capone for help in getting her admitted was the deciding factor. So he owes the infamous convict something. However, Moose’s dad tells him to treat the cons with respect but never to trust them and never to owe them anything. Moose finds out too late that his dad’s advice is good, and as he deals with Al Capone’s demands for recompense, Moose also has to figure out how he feels about the warden’s daughter, Piper, and what he’s going to do about it.

This second book about Moose and his mysterious relationship with Al Capone felt darker and more troubled than the first book. Moose is growing up, and he gets himself into some real trouble in this book. I would go so far as to use the term “moral ambiguity” to describe the atmosphere of the story. For Moose there is no clear right or wrong decision in most of the choices he must make over the course of the book. Moose must choose whether to help, and perhaps become indebted to, a convicted felon, or lose his sister’s last chance at getting an education and a more normal life. He has to lie and connive and deceive, all to protect Natalie and to keep his father’s job. And then it all backfires anyway.

Maybe the moral ambiguity in the book is a reflection of the ambiguity and mixed feelings inherent in dealing with a family member with autism. The word “autism” is never used in the story because, of course, it wasn’t an identified diagnosis back in the 1930’s. Author Gennifer Choldenko, in her author’s note at the end of the book, tell us a little bit about her own sister, Gina, who was identified as autistic. Then Ms. Choldenko writes this note about autism and its effects and prognosis:

“Though we still know surprisingly little about what causes autism, the treatment options have improved dramatically over the last fifteen years. The possibility of partial or even complete recovery from autism is greater now than it was when my sister was a kid. The chances of a life rich in its own rewards for children on the autism spectrum is much more likely today. For Gina, who died when she was eighteen, autism was a prison without a key. I like to think I’ve given my sister’s spirit a new life in the pages of these books.”

For a book about what it feels like to be autistic, I really prefer Anything But Typical, another Cybils nominee that I reviewed a few weeks ago. And for a book about what autistic children can do, despite or even because of their disability, check out last year’s London Eye Mystery. For siblings of children who are autistic, you can’t beat Cynthia Lord’s Rules, a Newbery Honor book in 2007.

Books about autism or featuring autistic characters
For children:
London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd.
Rules by Cynthia Lord.
Anything But Typical by Nora Leigh Baskin.
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.
Emma Jean Lazurus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis. Semicolon review by Brown Bear Daughter here.
The Very Ordered Existence of Marilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley.

For adults:
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. Semicolon review here.
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon. Semicolon review here.
Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach.
A Wild RIde Up the Cupboards by Ann Bauer.

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One or more of these books is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own.

Hymn #82: God of Grace and God of Glory

Lyrics: Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1930.
Music: CWM RHONDDA by John Hughes, 1907.
Theme: Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20.

October 5, 1930, saw the celebration of the first service at Riverside Church, New York City. To mark the occasion, Harry wrote the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory.”

God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power.
Crown Thine ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

Set our feet on lofty places,
Gird our lives that they may be,
Armored with all Christ-like graces,
In the fight to set men free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not man nor Thee,
That we fail not man nor Thee.

Save us from weak resignation,
To the evils we deplore.
Let the search for Thy salvation,
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee Whom we adore,
Serving Thee Whom we adore.

Fosdick became a central figure in the conflict between fundamentalist and liberal forces within American Protestantism in the 1920s and 1930s. While at First Presbyterian Church, on May 21, 1922, he delivered his famous sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”, in which he defended the modernist position. In that sermon, he presented the Bible as a record of the unfolding of God’s will, not as the literal Word of God. He saw the history of Christianity as one of development, progress, and gradual change. To the fundamentalists, this was rank apostasy, and the battle lines were drawn.”

It’s interesting that I’ve been reading Chaim Potok’s The Chosen this week which presents a fictional picture of the same basic controversy in almost the same time period (1940’s) within Orthodox Judaism.

Whether you agree with his theology or not, it’s a rather good and sticky hymn. (As in, it sticks in my memory.) “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage . . . ”

John MacArthur: Harry Emerson Fosdick and the Emerging Theology of Early LIberalism.
Wikipedia: Harry Emerson Fosdick
Christian History: Harry Emerson Fosdick Dedicated Riverside Church

African Food for Africans Who Are Starving?

In Ethiopia in 2003, for example, widespread drought occurred in the low-lying areas of the country and the very dry northern highlands. Some 12 million to 15 million people were at risk of hunger and starvation. But in the central and southern highlands of Ethiopia, farmers were producing a bumper crop of corn and other cereals. Yet with no market for the locally produced grains, prices collapsed.

If USAID could have purchased and helped distribute some of this excess, up to 500,000 small farmers would have benefited, as well as the millions at risk of starvation. But its only option was to import surplus food grain from the U.S.”

Right now I’m reading Timothy Egan’s book about the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s in which millions of pounds of wheat, a bumper crop grown on the Great Plains in 1929 and 1930, sat in or near silos and rotted because the prices went down, and the wheat was worth less than it cost to produce. I don’t understand how this happens exactly, especially when people in the cities began to have trouble feeding their families at about the same time because of the collapse of the U.S. economy.

Eventually, under FDR, the U.S. government did purchase some of the surplus wheat and other grain crops and distribute it to the hungry during the Great Depression. But the dust storms and the lack of income for those first two years caused the farmers to go bankrupt and their land to lie fallow.

Now in this Wall Street Journal article, two food experts say that we, the U.S., are causing much the same problem as what helped to create the Great Depression in our food aid program in Africa.

The Bush administration has urged, rightly, that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) be allowed to buy food locally, particularly in Africa, instead of only American-grown food.

The U.S. government currently buys grain and other foodstuffs from American farmers for free distribution in poor countries where a disaster has occurred, or sells it in food-deficit nations to generate funds for food-security development programs. Under the law, the food must be shipped almost exclusively on American vessels.”

Why is Congress opposing this change in policy? Why not buy food there for distribution there and use our own grain surpluses here? Or sell the grain “surpluses” to the highest bidder since there seems to be a food shortage that I keep reading about? Is there something I’m not seeing?