Down Ryton Water by E.R. Gaggin

Down Ryton Water is a 1942 Newbery Honor book about the Pilgrims–published back when children’s books were really meaty and challenging reads. It’s 369 pages of pilgrim wanderings and family building and moving and rearranging and traveling and birthing and marrying.

The (sainted) Pilgrims come across as real people with personalities and foibles and humor and salty language (nothing that’s shocking for nowadays) and full lives. The book focuses on the Over family: Mother Orris Brode Over, a gardener and herbalist; Father Matt Over, a farmer; Young Matt, five years old as the story opens in Scrooby, England; and baby Remember, “the damp woman child” as Young Matt calls her. The family soon grows: Young Matt’s young uncle John Brode, an adopted orphan child named Winifrett, a new baby boy born in Holland and named for the Dutch St. Nicholas, and later a young Native American teen named Wisset, all join the Over family.

It’s a book about family and about continuity of that family amidst pilgrim upheavals and separations and reunions. I found it encouraging and full of wisdom nuggets:

Orris to Young Matt upon the occasion of the Overs leaving Scrooby for Holland: “Strangers and pilgrims on the earth. That’s what we are . . . Because pilgrims, my lad, are strangers in a strange land. And so will we be–and my poor simples! Pilgrims wander about the earth in search of the blessed vision that keeps ever out of reach, just ahead of them. . . . Our vision is a place to live where we may have freedom to think, freedom to worship, and freedom to dig in the muck once more.”

Uncle John, when the Pilgrims are leaving Holland: “Freedom must be earned; it must first be understood and then fought for. It must be forever guarded, lest it slip away. It is the most precious thing in life.”

William Bradford at the first Thanksgiving: “We have been in a race for life. But a halt must be made in such a race sometime. A halt to consider what has been accomplished with God’s help, and to give thanks to Him for His blessings. A halt for–for–well, for laughter and feasting and pleasantry. Both young and old need a bolus of merriment now and then to keep them in good health.”

When Young Matt is building himself a house, his uncle John tells him: “Get some beauty into the design! No dwelling is too simple for beauty! There’s a correctness for every need. In building, as in garments.”

This fictional family of Pilgrims, the Overs, shows young (and old) readers the vicissitudes of life in colonial America as the first Europeans came to settle in the New World. It would make a good November read aloud book for upper elementary or even middle school children. And for skilled readers in that age group who are interested in history, this book would also be a fascinating and challenging independent reading choice. The book is long and descriptive passages abound, so patience and a tolerance for such is required. I found it a good antidote to the internet-based reading that I often get accustomed to and have to wean myself from in order to read deeply and enjoy fully the reading that I do.

The Wonderful Year by Nancy Barnes

I found this book at a local public library, and I was rather surprised to discover it in the middle of the vampires and the magical worlds and the middle school angst: a realistic, turn of the century setting story, published in 1946, about an only child, Ellen, who travels from Kansas to Colorado with her lawyer father and her adventurous mother to start a fruit-growing farm. The family is also in search of a rest cure and healthy situation for Father, who has been prescribed fresh air and exercise to alleviate the pain in his neck. Ellen, who is a worrier like her father, is reluctant to leave her friends in Kansas, but Mother is excited about the the new venture and soon talks Ellen into joining in her eager anticipation.

Ah, I see now why the book is still on the shelves at the library; it won a Newbery Honor in 1947. And I would say the honor was well-deserved. The pace and atmosphere of the story is reminiscent of Ruth Sawyer’s Roller Skates or of the Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, especially the older Betsy books in which Betsy goes to middle school and high school. Ellen is eleven as the story begins, and she has her twelfth birthday near the end of the book, but as only children tend to be, she’s somewhat mature for her age. One of the themes of the novel is about growing up and staying a child and not growing up too fast nor being too impatient to leave one’s childhood behind. Ellen makes friends with a fifteen year old boy, Ronnie, who lives nearby, and there is some understated tension about whether the two can remain friends and comrades in adventure when Ronnie is so much older and interested in girls his own age while still enjoying Ellen’s company as a friend. The interpersonal give and take is very well written, and I would love for my early teen and pre-teen girls to read the story and then discuss the possibilities that are suggested about boys and girls being friends and not having to get jealous of one another or have crushes.

Another area for discussion would be the “sexist” and “feminist” stereotypes that the characters seem to take for granted. Boys don’t cry. Girls need to be more like boys, tough and hardy, if they are to be seen as equal partners in adventure. It’s important for a girl to “find her own place, stand on her her own two feet, and not cling to anyone.” Are these true lessons? How is Ellen “like a girl”? How is she “like a boy”? Are these really even useful descriptions?

At the risk of being sexist myself, I would recommend The Wonderful Year for girls ages eleven to thirteen who want to read more about girls in other times and places. Fans of Betsy-Tacy, the Little House books, the American Girl series, or other girls-in-history realistic fiction should enjoy this coming of age story. And Colorado readers would especially enjoy this look at the history of Colorado settlement and farming. The illustrations in the book are by author and illustrator Kate Seredy, and they are quite lovely in their own right. Pen and ink, or perhaps pencil, drawings show Ellen and her family and friends in the thick of their homesteading experiences, and the expressive faces and captured actions add a lot to the story.

I would love to have a copy of this book for my library, and I’ll be adding it to my wishlist, which is growing much too long for the available shelf space in my library.

The Windy Hill by Cornelia Meigs

Big Hair and Books

I had intended to get a review written and posted about Cornelia Meigs’ 1922 Newbery Honor book, The Windy Hill, soon. I just read the book last night. However, I forgot about Rosemond’s Way Back Wednesday link-up, and of course, The Windy Hill is way back, almost a century back. So, here goes.

The very first year that the Newbery was awarded, Cornelia Lynde Meigs’ story of two young teens solving a family mystery at their cousin Jasper’s house in the country won a Newbery Honor. Ms. Meigs was a teacher whose first book, The Kingdom of the Winding Road, was published by Macmillan in 1915. Meigs’ books won Newbery Honors again in 1929 for Clearing Weather and in 1933 for Swift Rivers. I read and reviewed Swift Rivers a few years ago, and I still remember quite a bit about that story, something I can’t really say about many of the more recently published children’s books I’ve read. Finally, in 1934 Ms. Meigs’ biography of Louisa May Alcott, Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women won the Newbery Medal. Over the course of her career, Cornelia Meigs wrote over thirty books for children.

On to the book at hand, The Windy Hill tells the story of a family feud, a rather polite New England sort of feud, but a family quarrel nonetheless. The author tells her story from the point of view of fifteen year old Oliver and his sister Janet who have come to visit Cousin Jasper in his country mansion near Windy Hill. Unfortunately, Cousin Jasper is not himself. Something, or someone, is troubling him, and Cousin Jasper is not a very entertaining host. Oliver first decides to run away from the problem and return home on the next train. But on his way to the station, he meets The Beeman, a beekeeper with a penchant for storytelling, and as Oliver thinks and listens to the Beeman’s stories of the history of Windy Hill, he decides to stay and figure out what is wrong and do something to help.

The historical stories, one about an Indian named Nashola, another set during the War of 1812, and a third during the California Gold Rush, illuminate both the past and the present, and the main story comes to a climax when evil is revealed, good is rewarded, and all is made right. It’s probably unsuited for the internet generation, but I enjoyed the slower pace. The Windy Hill served as a good old-fashioned antidote to all the dark, weird, and twisted children’s books I’ve been reading for the past week or so. If my children were still young enough for read-alouds, I’d put it on the read aloud list.

QOTD: What’s your favorite Newbery Award or Newbery Honor book? What Newbery Award book do you think should definitely not have been chosen for the award?

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Award for best children’s book of 2013. The announcement was made this morning, and I realized that I actually had the book, checked out from the library and waiting to be read on my shelf. So I read it.

Flora and Ulysses is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. For some reason, the story and the writing reminded me of P.G. Wodehouse, although for the most part it’s nothing like Wodehouse—except in their shared wackiness. Anyway, I’m exquisitely pleased that this partiular book won the Newbery Medal. I recommended it to Z-baby as soon as I finished it, and she’s reading it now. Let’s see . . . how to tell you what the book is about: a giant magical vacuum cleaner, a flying squirrel poet, a cynical ten year old girl named Flora Belle Buckham, dunking donuts, superheroes, nefarious malfeasance, and a vanquished cat. That ought to be sufficient to whet your appetite.

Young readers will also enjoy the interspersed graphic novel parts, the wisdom of our round-headed protagonist, Flora, and the intrepid squirrel. I liked it all. Who wouldn’t enjoy a book for kids that dares to use big, beautiful words like “capacious” and “preternaturally” and “positing” and “hyperbole”? And it’s a book that asks questions, lots of questions, such as:

What good does it do you to read the words of a lie?

Is gianter a word?

Who can say what astonishments are hidden inside the most mundane being?

Don’t we all live in our heads? Where else could we possibly exist?

So, now that the Newbery committee and I have built up your expectations to impossible heights, go read Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures with no expectations at all. Just think of it as possibly another boring award-winning book that those East Coast librarians and publishing-types have picked because it’s good for you.

Then be delighted.

Footnote: I must be prescient or something because I also have the Caldecott winner, Locomotive by Brian Floca, on hold at the library.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Dystopian fiction. Matt Alacron was not born; he was harvested. He’s a clone with DNA from El Patron, druglord of a country between Mexico and the U.S. called Opium, where other clones called “eejits” work the poppy fields in mindless obedience and slavery. But Matt is different; El Patron wanted Matt to retain his intelligence and his ability to choose, for some reason.

The House of the Scorpion won the National Book for Young People’s Literature in 2002 and was a Newbery Honor Book in 2003. I was fascinated by Matt’s fight for survival and by his oddly familiar world in which drug lords rule and people are enslaved by power-hungry dictators who long for riches and immortality. Would that all of those people who gain a little power would, rather than seeking after more and more, pray the prayer of Solomon:

God: “Ask! What shall I give you?”
Solomon: “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
God: “See, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.”
I Kings 3

There is a God, and I am not He. To fear Him is the beginning of wisdom, and the characters in The House of the Scorpion needed desperately to hear and understand that lesson.

Other novels about human clones and cloning:
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson.
Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin.
Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Ames.

Newbery Boy Appeal

Around Newbery Award time I heard a lot of buzz about the middle grade/young adult novel Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt had already received two Newbery honors for his books Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars. So people who really liked Schmidt’s most recent book thought it was time for him to win a Newbery.

Come January and the Newbery announcements, Okay for Now won . . . nothing, zip, not even a mention. Nor was Okay for Now among the finalists for the Cybils, even though it was nominated in the YA fiction category. If I had read the book before the award season started and ended, I would have been pulling for Mr. Schmidt with all my might. Okay for Now is an award-worthy book, and a book worth reading.

So, how to describe this novel? It’s got: drawing lessons, juvenile delinquency, child abuse, Jane Eyre, junior high school angst, libraries, literacy training, John James Audubon, returning Vietnam soldiers, baseball stats, Apollo rockets, ice cream and Coca Cola, horseshoes, Percy Bysshe Shelley-hatred, a cranky playwright, redemption, hope and change. Oh, and my favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart, makes a non-speaking cameo appearance. What more could you ask?

The narrator and protagonist, Doug Swieteck, has a voice that is both memorable and endearing. He’s something of a bully as the novel begins, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like him or the book. But then, sign of a really good author, Gary Schmidt managed to enlist my sympathies by slowly revealing the secrets and influences that have come together to make Doug the boy he is: a survivor. I was drawn into the story and into sympathy with the main character almost imperceptibly. And that’s only part of what makes Okay for Now a great book.

Here’s an article about Gary Schmidt.
Review of Okay for Now by Elizabeth Bird at Fuse #8 Production. (Ms. Bird does longer, more thorough reviews than I do, and I like and agree with what she said about this novel.)

The book that actually won the Newbery, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, was, I suspect, trying to be the same kind of book as Okay for Now: historical fiction about a boy growing up in a rather quirky small town, lots of boy-appeal. However, whereas Okay for Now has many humorous moments and characters, it’s essentially a serious book about a boy surviving a traumatic childhood. Dead End is essentially a comedic novel about a boy living in a town full of crazy people. The boy who narrates and lives the story is named Jack Gantos, so I assume the novel is somewhat autobiographical.

The problem with Dead End, for me, was that I didn’t laugh. I didn’t even smile much. I mostly got that quizzical look on my face that you get when you wonder what in the world these people are thinking or doing???? Poison the rats in your basement with doctored chocolates? Really? Gather mushrooms in the wild to make meals for the elderly? Really? Sneak into an old lady’s house dressed as the Grim Reaper to see if she’s still alive and hope you don’t scare her to death? Really? Mow down your mom’s cornfield when you know she’s going to be really mad, just because your dad will be mad if you don’t? Really? And those are only a few of the minor plot points I had trouble suspending disbelief for.

Dead End in Norvelt gets an E for effort, but we each have our own sense of humor. Mine just wasn’t susceptible to Mr. Gantos’s brand of comedy.

Then, there were the plot holes. (These questions may include spoilers.) Five or six (I lost count) murders and no one even figured out till the very end that the deaths were not natural? Jack’s dad learns to fly an airplane in two or three easy lessons? Why did Jack’s mom ground him in the first place when he was only doing what his dad told him to do? Because she’s crazy? If anything in this book didn’t make sense, it was chalked up to the idea that “they’re all nuts.”

Checking in again at Fuse#8, Ms. Bird says Dead End in Norvelt is “weird” and “may also be one of the finest he’s (Gantos) produced in years.” She obviously liked it better than I did. I’m also not as observant as Ms. Bird because I ddn’t notice until she pointed it out that the two books have very similar cover pictures.

Dead End in Norvelt gets a few points for a more evocative and memorable title, but Gary Schmidt was cheated out of a Newbery-award as far as I’m concerned.

Sunday Salon: Bits and Pieces

The Sunday

Teresa at Teresa’s Reading Corner explains something I have been enjoying for months but never have been able to figure out how to explain: the Google Reader “Next” button. Go ahead and check it out. It’s made my blog-reading ten times more enjoyable.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday: Jared Wilson has a vision for the future of Christians working together to protect the unborn and encourage the growth of a culture that values life.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I am a fan of all of Ms. L’Engle’s books, but this one is the one for which she has received the most acclaim, including the Newbery Medal. The story of misfit Meg, her genius little brother Charles Wallace and her wonderfully normal friend Calvin going off to fight evil out among the stars and galaxies is a classic that can introduce children and adults to the wonder and the danger of a universe in which God rules but Evil is real and perilous.

Recipients of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and of the Prinz award for YA literature will be announced tomorrow morning at the AlA Midwinter Meeting being held in Dallas, TX. Click here for information about the awards and for link to the live webcast of the announcements beginning on Monday morning at 7:30 AM, Central time.

1925: Books and Literature

Among the bestsellers and critically acclaimed books of 1925:
Gene Stratton Porter, The Keeper of the Bees
Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
Anne Parrish, The Perennial Bachelor I assume this is the same Anne Parrish who had a Newbery Honor book in 1925 (see below). Her books won Newbery Honors twice more, in 1930 and in 1950. Yet, I’ve never seen anything by Ms. Parrish.

In the 1920s, Anne and her husband were browsing in a bookstore in Paris when she came upon a special children’s book. It was a well-worn edition of Jack Frost and Other Stories. She immediately showed it to her husband, remarking that the story had been one of her favorites as a little girl. Her husband opened the book and was stunned to read the inscription inside: “Anne Parrish, 209 N. Weber Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.”

Fannie Farmer, ed., The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. First published in 1896, Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook became an American classic. It eventually contained 1,849 recipes.

“It is my wish that it may not only be looked upon as a compilation of tried and tested recipes, but that it may awaken an interest through its condensed scientific knowledge which will lead to deeper thought and broader study of what to eat.”

A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby My history and literature students are finishing up Mr. Fitzgerald’s story of the enigmatic Mr. Gatsby this week. Here’s a rather indicative conversation from the book:

Nick: “You’re a rotten driver. Either you ought to be more careful, or you oughtn’t to drive at all.”
Jordan: “I am careful.”
Nick: “No, you’re not.”
Jordan: “Well, other people are.”
Nick: “What’s that got to do with it?”
Jordan:”They’ll keep out of my way. It takes two to make an accident.”
Nick: “Suppose you meet someone just as careless as yourself?”
Jordan: “I hope I never will. I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.”

I wrote more about the deeply spiritual carelessness of Daisy and Tom and Jordan here.

Prosper Buranelli et al., The Cross Word Puzzle Books
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 went to playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Pulitzer Prize for the Novel: So Big by Edna Ferber.
I’ve read So Big, and it’s a decent story. But I’m not sure it’s Pulitzer Prize material, anymore than Ferber’s fun, but highly inaccurate, novel of Texas, Giant. Giant was made into a 1956 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson.

1925 Newbery Medal Winner:
Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger. (Doubleday, 1925) I’ve tried to read this book, but honestly the “tales” from South America are rather dry and not too exciting.
Honor Books: (I wish I could find copies of these two. It would be fun to see what librarians in 1925 thought were “honor books.”)
Nicholas: A Manhattan Christmas Story by Annie Carroll Moore (Putnam)
The Dream Coach by Anne Parrish (Macmillan)

Nonfiction set in 1925:
The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury. Recommended by Heather J. at Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books.

Fiction set in 1925:
Greenery Street by Denis Mckail. Re-published in 2002 by Persephone Books. Recommended by Dani Torres at A Work in Progress.

Projects, New and Old: January 2011

My Bible Reading Project is going pretty well. I’ve read through Genesis, on track to finish Mark this weekend, and several of the Psalms. I also read Galatians, mostly aloud to the urchins, but I can’t say I was very successful in explaining the distinction between keeping the Law for the law’s sake and keeping it out of gratitude for what Christ has done. The urchins stared at me blankly for the most part as I engaged in this lesson in theology for their benefit. Ah, well, push on.

I want to take my old Bible and do this project with it: Blank Bible Project. I can see how this would be really useful—and a way of passing down a legacy to at least one of my children. More detailed instructions on making a blank Bible.

I read Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle for the Faith N Fiction Roundtable, and I found Ms. L’Engle’s work as satisfying and thoughtful as ever. Come here, or to one of the other participants’ blogs, in February for more discussion of the book and its implications.

Poetry Project: The poems are posting on Fridays for Poetry Friday, and I’m enjoying them, even though we are in the Romantic period right now. I think I’m becoming an anti-Romantic poetry reader.

Newbery Project: I read and reviewed the Newbery Award winner, Moon Over Manifest, this month. I liked it a lot.

Operation Clean House is going nowhere. I haven’t even attempted to put together an Exercise and Diet Project. If anyone know of a way to exercise without actual physical labor being involved, please let me know.

In February, I really want to do more posts for Texas Tuesday and Read Aloud Thursday (to link to Amy’s blog, Hope Is the Word). I also would like to continue my Africa Reading Project, which has gotten off to a good start this year with several posts in January.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

So, on Monday Moon Over Manifest was something of a surprise winner of the Newbery Medal for “the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year” (2010). And I just happened to have a copy of the winning book in my library basket, a leftover from the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction panel that I hadn’t been able to find before the deadline in late December for our shortlist to be finalized. I read the book yesterday.

I can now say that if the publisher (Delacorte) had seen fit to send a review copy, I might very well have pushed to put Moon Over Manifest on our shortlist. Of course, that’s easy to say now, hindsight and all. But I haven’t been too excited about or fond of some of the recent Newbery Award books. And I said so. Last year’s book, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead was great, but of course, I’m a Madeleine L’Engle fan, so I would like anything that paid tribute to A Wrinkle in Time. I tried to read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book three times year before last and never got past the first few chapters. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! seemed sort of, dare I say it, boring, and The Higher Power of Lucky was just O.K.

Moon Over Manifest 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. Abilene is not happy about being separated from her loving and beloved father, and she is determined that Gideon will come get her by the end of the summer. In the meantime, Abilene wants to find some information about the time Gideon spent in Manifest during World War I, before Abilene was born. What she gets is a nun, Sister Redempta, who teaches at the Sacred Heart of the Holy Redeemer Elementary School and gives her a summer assignment on the last day of school. Abilene also meets:
Shady Howard, the bootlegger who is also the interim pastor of the First Baptist Church
Miss Sadie, fortune teller, spirit medium, conjurer, and story-teller extraordinaire,
Hattie Mae Harper Macke, newspaper columnist and amateur historian of Manifest,
and two new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, who join Abilene in searching for The Rattler, a spy who may or may not be selling secrets from Manifest to the enemy.

The story alternates between 1936 and Abilene and her friends and 1917-18 when the Manifest townspeople of 1936 were just growing up and when Abilene’s father should have been making his mark on Manifest’s history. Will Abilene find mention of her father in any of the stories Miss Sadie tells? How does Miss Sadie know so much about all of the secrets and events that make up the story of Manifest, Kansas? Does Shady have stories to tell about Abilene’s father? Who is or was The Rattler, and is he still in Manifest, spying on people and keeping secrets? Will Gideon come back to get Abilene, or has he deserted her for good?

Let’s start with the cover. Abilene is walking on the railroad track, thinking about her father and about the stories Miss Sadie tells. Do kids walk on the railroad tracks anymore? I lived about four blocks from the railroad tracks when I was growing up, and I certainly did. I walked along the tracks and looked for lost coins and thought about stuff. I love the cover of this book. So nostalgic.

Then there’s the story. Abilene is an engaging character, independent, feisty, and determined. But she’s also respectful and grateful for the people in Manifest who help her and feed her and take care of her. I like respectful and thankful, since it seems to be in short supply sometimes in book characters and in real kids. Abilene’s story feels real and has a flavor of the summertime adventures of the Jem and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Abilene and her two buddies roam all over Manifest all summer long, and they make up stories and hunt for The Rattler with impunity and without much adult interference. The adults are available, but not over-involved. I think my kids could use some of that kind of independence and free-range experience.

As Abilene grows up over the course of the summer, she also learns more about her father and about his history, his character, and his flaws. Twelve is about the right time for a daughter to begin to see her father as a real person with a past and with hurts that need to be healed. In Moon Over Manifest, Gideon is a good father who “deserts” his daughter for good reasons, unlike the mother in another lauded book of 2010, One Crazy Summer. In facter the two books could be compared in several ways—feisty young heroine, absent parent, a summer of growth and discovery, people who are not who they seem to be–and I think Moon Over Manifest would come out the winner in a head-to-head competition between the two books.

So, Moon Over Manifest is a fine novel; it will probably appeal most to mature readers with good to excellent reading skills. The chronological jumps are well marked and easy to follow, but some of the psychological insights into family history and relationships are going to go over the head of young readers no matter how well they can follow the plot. Still, Ms. Vanderpool’s book is a good addition to the historical fiction of the Great Depression and a worthy Newbery Medalist.