Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BOOKS: 1930s Newbery Winners

I decided to look in the library for some Newbery Prize winning books from the 1930s. My library only had a few, but it was interesting to read them all together and get a feel for children's literature from that decade. 
Interestingly, they were all woman authors.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, 242 pages

Newbery Winner 1936; 1930s Mini-Challenge

The only one I'd heard of before. Caddie is a mixture of Anne of Green Gables (red hair) and Laura Ingalls (pioneer). Caddie is growing up in 1864 Wisconsin after leaving Boston. She would rather play with her brothers, was friends with the local Indians, and loved living the outdoor life. Her father convinced her mother to let her live as she pleased, for as long as she could, which meant tomboy life.

Caddie Woodlawn has been challenged, based on the Indian portrayal. Caddie and her family certainly represent a tolerance and acceptance that was not probably common in that day, and much like the Little House books, contain stereotypes. I think it still helps to read these books, if only to understand the attitudes that got us to this day.
This was a sweet, slice of pioneer life, with some adventures that kids today would not be the slightest bit familiar with.
also reviewed: kailana,

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright,136 pages

Newbery Winner 1939; 1930s Mini-Challenge

Think of this one as a pre-Charlotte's Web but not focused on the animals. Set in Wisconsin (again!) but during the Depression, nine year old Garnet finds a silver thimble that she thinks brings her good luck for the summer.  Garnet lives a life similar to Caddie - farm life, but would be so different from today's kids. Garnet and her friend hitchhike rides to town, get in a few scrapes, and end their summer at the county fair, with her pig, the runt of the litter that she raised by hand, entered and hoping to win the blue ribbon. Sound familiar?

I thought this book was sweet and was perfect for the 1930s mini-challenge as it was actually set during the Depression. It even included a poor, riding the rails orphan who gets taken in by Garnet's family. Another example of how times have changed - no social services to deal with. Not that social services is bad. It ended up being a good home for him, so he stayed. If it hadn't been loving, he just would have left.

also reviewed: bybee, zenleaf

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Miegs,210 pages

Newbery Winner 1934; 1930s Mini-Challenge; Nonfiction Five 2010; Our Mutual Read (Victorian books, written or set in)

My first nonfiction Newbery book was a biography of Louisa May Alcott.The facts of her life and family are all here, but I found it a bit boring overall. Fans of Little Women will enjoy seeing where some of the characters came from, and there is a lot of name dropping, as the Alcotts hung with the literary circle of 1800s New England, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, and Henry David Thoreau. Meigs described Louisa's personality and traits, like her temper, but I never felt like I experienced her life. Too much telling, not enough examples of showing.

It seems to be a well researched book, and it is full of facts and people. The Alcotts moved around a lot, and were never very settled. It still reads well, but it feels like a scholarly biography and report about her life.

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis,267 pages

Newbery Winner 1933; 1930s Mini-Challenge

I didn't actually read this one. Maybe someday, but the other three books all had the same feel - early Americana, and I couldn't seem to get started on this one.