2013 Newbery Medal: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, was published in 2012 by Harper.

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living in a shopping mall, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Rating: 3/5

The One and Only Ivan is apparently based on a true story. The real Ivan, like the one in the story, was in a circus-themed mall for twenty-seven years before enough information circulated about it that he was transferred to Zoo Atlanta. As an animal fantasy, The One and Only Ivan crawls into the head of book-Ivan and explores a similar story from the perspective of the gorilla.

It’s a very sentimental story, and it would be especially heartwarming if you really loved animals and don’t mind good zoos. For me, I found the whole thing a little bit too sentimental for my tastes. I also had a hard time accepting the point of view of a gorilla. I get it, it’s an animal fantasy, but it still rang false in my view.

That’s not to say the story isn’t good. Applegate does raise awareness of inappropriate and unsafe conditions for animals, and she does emphasize that good zoos are beneficial for animal welfare. The story, as a story, is lovely and heartwarming and has a good happy ending. It has a good lesson about treating animals correctly. But, at times, its sappiness sours the story. I’m glad it’s not all gloom and doom like some Newbery Medals, but the overt sentimentality of this book is almost as bad, in my opinion.

The One and Only Ivan is a good story, perfect for children who love animals, and has some good things to say about taking care of animals, but I found it to be too sentimental throughout. I’m not calling for Newbery Medals to be full of darkness and sorrow, but I would prefer a balance, and this book, though it has some sorrow in it, goes too far in the sappiness category for me to really like it.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy, Realistic

When the Big Top Mall was first built, it smelled of new paint and fresh hay, and humans came to visit from morning till night. They drifted past my domain like logs on a lazy river.

Lately, a day might go by without a single visitor. Mack says he’s worried. He says I’m not cute anymore. He says, “Ivan, you’ve lost your magic, old guy. You used to be a hit.”

It’s true that some of my visitors don’t linger the way they used to. They stare through the glass, they cluck their tongues, they frown while I watch my TV.

“He looks lonely,” they say.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2EhEHHq

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1957 Newbery Medal: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen

Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen, was published in 1956 by Harcourt.

The war is over and Marly’s father is home—but he’s not the same. Something inside him seems as cold and dead as the winter world outside. But when the family moves to Grandma’s old house on Maple Hill, miracles begin to happen. The sap in the trees begins to rise, the leaves start to turn, and maybe, just maybe, Marly’s father will begin to bloom again, like the world around them.

Rating: 3/5

Miracles on Maple Hill is one of those books that really makes me want to move to someplace woodsy and snowy, and the cover gives me that sort of 1950s-wistful feel, because I love the 1950s and love books set in that time period. After I finished reading this book, I thought about how amazing it would be to live in Pennsylvania with all the hills and woods and snow.

So, definitely the atmosphere of this book I enjoyed immensely. The other parts of it—the important bits, like the plot and things—were all right. I didn’t quite enjoy the plot as much as I enjoyed the setting, and all the jumping around in time at the beginning was a little confusing for me. I can see, a little, why this book won a Newbery Medal, but at the same time, I wonder how. The book is slow in the middle, and there’s really not a whole lot of the sort of deep storyline you expect from a Newbery. However, I suppose they all can’t be tragic stories of parental loss—some have to be lighthearted and whimsical, like this one.

 Miracles on Maple Hill is very lighthearted, thanks in part to Sorensen only lightly hinting in areas, such as Marly’s father’s PTSD. The darkest moment of the book is at the end, and has nothing to do with Marly’s father at all, as one might expect from the blurb. And the book still doesn’t go as dark as some Newbery Medals have gone—the title is Miracles on Maple Hill, and Sorensen means it.

Miracles on Maple Hill is lighthearted fare compared to other Newbery Medals. It struggles a bit in the middle, and to be honest the whole book blurred together a bit for me, but the setting called to all the snow-loving, tree-loving, 1950s-loving bones in my body. I wish it had been a bit more memorable, but its lack of any real dark or sensitive content makes it ideal for a cheerful children’s book.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

It had to be the right place. All outdoors. With miracles. Not crowded and people being cross and mean. Daddy not tired all the time anymore. Mother not worried. But it looked little and old to be all that. She was afraid, now that she was actually here, that it wasn’t. She wished that they were still on the way. Sometimes even Christmas wasn’t as much fun as getting ready for it. Maybe thinking about Maple Hill would turn out to be better than Maple Hill itself.

She whispered, “Please, let there be miracles.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2FEKvXv

Love Thy Neighbor by Ann Turner

Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson, by Ann Turner, was published in 2003 by Scholastic.

In Greenmarsh, Massachusetts, in 1774, thirteen-year-old Prudence keeps a diary of the troubles she and her family face as Tories surrounded by American patriots at the start of the American Revolution.

Rating: 2/5

Love Thy Neighbor retells the tension between the colonies and England leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War—from the point of view of a Tory family. It’s a little bit like recounting the Civil War from a Confederate standpoint—it’s not something you see often and it takes a little getting used to.

The book, like many other of the Dear America books, has more substance as a narrative historical account than as a story with a plot. There’s a bit of one, but mostly Turner is concerned with showing the tension between Tory and Patriot as neighbor turns against neighbor rather than developing her characters. Prudence is definitely merely an onlooker, a vehicle to show certain attitudes, and nothing more.

One thing I appreciate about this book is that I had forgotten about Christmas being outlawed by the Puritans, and this book reminded me of that. That ideology takes centerstage in the novel, as Prudence and her family secretly decorate for and celebrate Christmas and get attacked as “papist.” It’s something that I don’t think a lot of people know—or a lot of people would like to forget, maybe—and in the research I did afterward, it really wasn’t until the 19th century that Christmas really took hold in America.

Love Thy Neighbor seems weak to me, not only because of the lack of a strong character presence, but also because it seemed to me that Turner didn’t have as much research to lean on as some other D.A. books do. I understand that this is a children’s book and footnotes or endnotes are not really things that appear in those, but I really would have liked to have seen some of her research on some of the things she mentioned in the historical/author’s note at the end. It’s probably my least favorite Dear America book I’ve read so far.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

In school today, Abigail did not even return my greeting. When we left Mrs. Hall’s house, I asked if I had done anything to offend her. She choked out, “Papa says we Patriots must stick together,” and ran away. Again.

I would not cry. I took a deep breath, grabbed Verity’s hand, and marched home to tell Mama. She was very kind and made strong cups of tea to cheer us.

I fear it will take more than tea to do that.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2DxXRUE

Look to the Hills by Patricia C. McKissack

Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl, by Patricia C. McKissack, was published in 2004 by Scholastic.

In acclaimed author Patricia McKissack’s latest addition to the Dear America line, Lozette, a French slave, whose masters uproot her and bring her to America, must find her place in the New World. Arriving with her French masters in upstate New York at the tail end of the French-Indian War, Lozette, “Zettie,” an orphaned slave girl, is confronted with new landscapes, new conditions, and new conflicts. As her masters are torn between their own nationality and their somewhat reluctant new allegiance to the British colonial government, Zettie, too, must reconsider her own loyalties.

Rating: 3/5

Look to the Hills describes a period of time not too often depicted in historical fiction, at least from what I can tell—the French and Indian War. Or at least, the time period between that war and the Revolutionary War. McKissack deftly describes the tension between the colonists and the Indians, and the struggles of those who try to keep the peace. There’s also a good balance between the two opposing sides: the characters who want to drive off the Indians and the ones who want to let them be, or even integrate into their society.

Lozette Moreau is an interesting protagonist, in that she’s a slave, but a French one, so that she has to deal with the inevitable clash when she arrives in the colonies, where slaves are treated much differently than in France. McKissack does a good job of describing Lozette’s relationship with Ree and Lozette’s frustration with feeling like an object rather than a person. It’s a good thing to remember that cruelty towards the slaves, exhibited in places such as Haiti and the Southern United States at the time, is not what makes slavery so terrible. McKissack emphasizes how it’s the mere act of “owning” another human being that is wrong, regardless of how well that human is treated.

Look to the Hills was a bit long and boring in places; the middle, especially was something of a trudge to get through. That’s the problem with the Dear America books in general, I feel—in order to fit all the events they want to fit in that meet that historical time period, the authors have to waste some time with fiddly things, like chores and random conversations and sometimes one sentence entries. The ones that can grab you from start to finish are the ones that stand out, in my opinion. Look to the Hills is almost there, but loses ground because of the middle.

Look to the Hills is a unique, and rare, look at the aftermath of the French and Indian War. It also has an interesting look at different forms of slavery and the tension that can result when different forms meet and clash. I like the perspective and the historical information, but the middle of the book is too slow to make it a particularly engaging read.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“What’s a companion do?” Sam asked.

“Compan,” Sally answered, shrugging. We all laughed in good spirit.

In a short while we were talking like old friends. I shared my story from my birth on Captain Moreau’s ship to the adventures that had brought me to Fort Niagara.

“You’re lucky,” said Sally. “Being a companion isn’t like being a slave.”

“A slave is a slave,” I said. “I want to be free.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2DaswaI

1937 Newbery Medal: Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer, was published in 1936 by Viking.

A year on roller skates! A whole year when Lucinda was free to stop and chat with Patrolman M’Gonegal, and make friends with old Rags-an’-Bottles the junkman, and even play with Tony, whose father kept a fruit stand down the street. That was Lucinda’s year in New York City in the 1890s, when her family went to Europe and left her—not, thank heaven, with Aunt Emily and her four docile, ladylike daughters, but with the Misses Peters, who understood that a girl of ten wanted to roller-skate to school, and who weren’t always worrying about a little lady’s social dignity!

Rating: 3/5

Despite the fact that Roller Skates has the protagonist-type that I can’t stand (the breaks-propriety, too-wild-to-handle type), I actually enjoyed reading the book. I’m not fond of New York City as a place to live, but I really enjoy stories about old New York, the New York of the 1800s and early 1900s. Sawyer portrays both the glamourous bustle and the peaceful parks of the city, and also includes a small glimpse of a slightly seedier underbelly. Though it’s not focused on so much as to make it a prominent theme, there’s definitely class tension in the novel as well—Lucinda runs into many characters that function on different social levels than she, whether it be Tony at the fruit stand, Rags-an’-Bottles the junkman, her rich uncle, or the mysterious “princess.”

Though Lucinda is supposed to be ten, she sounds, especially in her journal entries, much more like fifteen, and I imagined her as such throughout—which made for sometimes quite jarring scenes when Sawyer reminded me that Lucinda was younger than how I imagined her. Perhaps it’s due to the time period and the culture gap, but Lucinda says and does a great many things that I can’t imagine a ten-year-old articulating or doing today.

The book is a little bit wild and all-over-the-place (much like Lucinda) in terms of pace and development. There’s a few odd events scattered throughout that I sort of blinked and shook my head at in confusion, such as what Lucinda discovered on her last visit to “Princess Zayda,” which was so unexpected and strange that I’m not sure why Sawyer felt the need to include it (unless it was to illustrate the seedy side of New York). I also shook my head a bit when Trinket got sick, because Sawyer was so vague and mysterious about her treatment that I’m not sure even Sawyer knew what illness Trinket had. It works because Lucinda is ten and knows nothing about medicine, but still, it was an odd scene to me.

I can’t say I loved Roller Skates, but I did enjoy most of it. I thought there were some odd scenes here and there, but there were some amusing moments and I do really like the setting. I just wish I had enjoyed the protagonist a little bit more. I found her voice older than her age, and I don’t like her character type at all. However, I suppose a nice little girl who follows the rules wouldn’t make for such an adventurous book.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

“What’s your name?”

“Trinket,” said the little girl.

“Caroline Browdowski,” said the woman, “but she is our very own trinket. It’s a pet name.”

“Oh! I never had a pet name. I’m called Lucinda, and sometimes severely—Lucinda Wyman! And I never had curls, either.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2Fy2Zd2

 

1990 Newbery Medal: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, was published in 1989 by Houghton.

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend, Ellen Rosen, often think about the way life was before the war. But it’s now 1943, and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and Nazi soldiers marching in their town. The Nazis won’t stop. The Jews of Denmark are being “relocated,” so Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. Then Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission. Somehow she must find the strength and courage to save her best friend’s life. There’s no turning back now.

Rating: 4/5

Number the Stars is yet another historical fiction book that told me a story I didn’t know. I’ve always considered myself pretty cognizant of World War II, and a majority of historical fiction I’ve read and enjoyed have taken place in that time period. However, I knew nothing about the amazing story of the Danish Jews and their escape from the Nazis due to their fellow Danes smuggling them across to Sweden. Thanks to Danish efforts, 99% of the Danish Jews survived the Holocaust.

Number the Stars is an assigned reader in my fourth-grade English class. From their reactions, I know that a majority of my students love the book. They may not completely understand everything about the time period, but the story has just enough suspense and mystery for them to really enjoy it. And Lowry does a great job of ramping up the tension: first, the undercurrent of danger as the Rosens leave and Ellen hides with the Johansens. Then, the mysterious death of Great-Aunt Birte and the empty coffin. Finally, the mystery package that Annemarie must deliver to her uncle. All of it exactly conveys the hush-hush nature of the entire operation the Danes were carrying out, and conveys it in such a way that children will be able to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

The one thing holding me back from outright absorption and enjoyment of the book is that I’m really not a fan of Lowry’s writing style here. And, having read it out loud to my class, I’m even more aware of some of the awkwardness of expression that is more apparent when verbalizing the sentences. It’s a little clunky, basically, and, since I’m big on writing style, it’s just enough to mildly bother me throughout the book.

However, the story, of course, is fantastic, a tribute to the Danes and what they did for the Jews during World War II, a story that conveys the horror that took place during World War II, but also dwells on a positive story, one of bravery and hope. Number the Stars would probably be the first book I would recommend for children to learn about World War II and some of the lesser-known events that took place. I wish that I had more time to really discuss it with my fourth graders, but it’s enough that they get to read it.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

[Annemarie] turned to her father. “Papa, do you remember what you heard the boy say to the soldier? That all of Denmark would be the king’s bodyguard?”

Her father smiled. “I have never forgotten it,” he said.

“Well,” Annemarie said slowly, “now I think that all of Denmark must be bodyguard for the Jews, as well.”

“So we shall be,” Papa replied.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2DgPjBi

1943 Newbery Medal: Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray, was published in 1942 by Viking.

“A road’s a kind of holy thing,” said Roger the Minstrel to his son, Adam. “That’s why it’s a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It’s open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it’s home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle.” And Adam, though only eleven, was to remember his father’s words when his beloved dog, Nick, was stolen and Roger had disappeared and he found himself traveling alone along these same great roads, searching the fairs and market towns for his father and his dog.

Rating: 4/5

Adam of the Road is a delightful tale of a boy who longs to be a minstrel like his father and travel the road. After his dog, Nick, is stolen, and he loses his father while searching for Nick, Adam sets out on a journey to not only find his lost dog, but also to return to his father and to finally become a minstrel.

Adam’s journey never becomes boring, even as it becomes slightly repetitive in format. His adventures fall in “travel—city—adventure” format pretty consistently, with few variations. However, Gray does not spend too much time dwelling on things that could easily get boring; the pace is fast where it should be and slackens when necessary. The book seems long, but actually goes along quite quickly, especially once Adam, Nick, and Roger are separated and Adam is on his own.

Gray also manages to make each adventure Adam has realistic, and clearly a great deal of research went in to representing thirteenth-century England accurately. Adam is a relatable protagonist, plucky and courageous at all the right times, with hints of young boy creeping through in his boastfulness and pride. His encompassing desire to become a minstrel, regardless of other circumstances perhaps being better for him, is clearly shown in his thoughts and actions.

I couldn’t help but compare Adam of the Road to the books set in the same (or near enough) time period, Crispin and The Door in the Wall. Of the three, this book is absolutely my favorite. Adam was not nearly as annoying as Crispin, and, while The Door in the Wall was surprisingly deep in historicity, Adam of the Road was more enjoyable to read as well as being more memorable. I never once got bored or tired of reading this book.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction

Adam’s gray eyes suddenly shone out as if candles had been lighted behind them. “He’s coming!” he cried. “Roger’s coming!”

Nick got up and put his paws on Adam’s knee, his tail wagging so hard that his sides shook.

“Now there was no name mentioned,” said the dame warningly.

“They don’t have to say his name,” said Adam proudly. “He’s the only minstrel worth talking about. Where are they coming from?”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BowmiD

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic by Betty MacDonald

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, by Betty MacDonald, was published in 1949 by Harper. It is the sequel to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

Children love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle because she’s tons of fun. Parents love her because she can cure children of any bad habit. When Mrs. Burbank is in despair because her children have become Thought-You-Saiders or Mrs. Rogers’ sanity and crockery are threatened as Sharon turns into a Heedless Breaker, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle calmly produces a magical potion that takes care of the problems. And of course, all of her medicines taste delicious! Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s helpful, hilarious magic is irresistible—and as funny as it is effective!

Rating: 4/5

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic is the official sequel to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, though I’ve always read this book after Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. That’s the way my box collection ordered them, so that’s the way I’m used to reading them. One thing I noticed immediately were the illustrations—the book wasn’t quite as familiar to me because the illustrator was different (the book being a newer edition, of course). I did, however, still practically know the book by heart.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic is my favorite Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book. It does do a much better job of explaining the magical cures than did Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (of course, as this is the second book and not the fourth, of course it would. The abruptness of Hello was my fault for reading them out of order). I love Lester in “The Bad-Table-Manners Cure” and the inevitable pig faux pas made at dinner, I love the haphazard nature of “The Interrupters” and the art of flower arranging explained, and I especially love the treasure hunt in “The Waddle-I-Doers.”

I love stories about finding hidden rooms and secret drawers in old houses—hence why I love Return to Gone-Away so much—so the massive treasure hunt in the last chapter is one of my favorites. Perhaps that’s why this book is my favorite Piggle-Wiggle book. Sure, the incentive is kind of abrupt and hard to swallow, but the entire book is like that and by the time you get to the last chapter, you accept all that is thrown at you.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic is delightful, giving you quirky families, realistic bad habits, and not-so-realistic cures. The treasure hunt at the end of the book is a memorable moment, at least for me, and is what caused this book to become my favorite as a child (and now, too). I’ve loved the nostalgia factor these books have given me, and I’m eager to reread Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm now, which I don’t remember quite as well as the others and which never seemed as good to me growing up as the other three.

Recommended Age Range: 6+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Children’s

“Look, children. See how beautiful the city looks from up here. Watch the fog rise over there.”

“Where’s the dog?” said Bard.

“What dog?” asked Darsie.

“What color are the dog’s eyes?” asked Alison.

“What on earth are you talking about?” said Mr. Burbank. “I said, ‘Watch the fog rise over there.’”

“Oh,” Bard said. “I thought you said, ‘Watch the dog’s eyes glare.’”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BY6wyy

1956 Newbery Medal: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham, was published in 1955 by Houghton.

Nathaniel Bowditch grew up in a sailor’s world—Salem in the early days, when tall-masted ships from foreign ports crowded the wharves. But Nat didn’t promise to have the makings of a sailor; he was too physically small. Nat may have been slight of build, but no one guessed that he had the persistence and determination to master sea navigation in the days when men sailed only by “log, lead, and lookout.” Nat’s long hours of study and observation, collected in his famous work, The American Practical Navigator (also known as the “Sailors’ Bible”), stunned the sailing community and made him a New England hero.

Rating: 5/5

There are so many historical events and figures I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for literature. Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea taught me about the wreck of the Kaiser Wilhem, and that one review copy I read taught me about Dunkirk. I learned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the harsh child labor and factory work in England, Stalin’s “cleansing” of the Baltic states, and many more things. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, continues that tradition, with its story of Nathaniel Bowditch.

Nathaniel Bowditch wrote The American Practical Navigator, a book that is still used on Navy ships today. He stopped going to school when he was ten, but taught himself calculus, Latin, French, and Spanish. He figured out a new way of calculating navigation using the moon and the stars, and taught it to the crews he sailed with. He found many mistakes in the current navigation book of the time and wrote his own book as a result. He translated books that helped developed astronomy in America. Basically, Nathaniel Bowditch was an awesome person that for some reason I’d never heard of before.

I’m not sure how much of Latham’s account is fictionalized and how much is reality, but at least the bones of it are grounded in history. The book is actually quite humorous, which is needed because of all the death that occurs. I think maybe ten named people die in this book, as well as a few members of the “faceless masses.” Seriously, Bowditch had a ton of tragedy in his life—reminiscent of the dangers of that day in occupation, as well as in the lack of life-saving medicinal discoveries. And while there’s certainly enough death to be concerned about younger readers, it’s a good opportunity to discuss the perils of the day and why people back then so often died of “consumption” (aka tuberculosis).

It’s also a great book to emphasize how a lack of education doesn’t necessarily spell doom. I mean, Bowditch had no schooling past the age of 10, yet he taught himself calculus and four different languages. Self-teaching and self-motivation are huge factors in educational/intellectual success.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, while written simply, is a wonderful portrait of a man who before this I’d never even heard about. The eighteenth century was a great time of discovery and this book highlights a little of the enthusiasm and determination that carried inventors and discoverers through all life’s hardships to better the lives of the people around them.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

He whistled while he found his slate and pencil. He whistled until he was out of the house and up the street. Then the whistle died.

All the way to Mr. Walsh’s house Nat’s feet seemed to beat out the words: Nine years…nine years…nine years…

Two or three months to study bookkeeping. Then no more school—ever.

Indentured: Nathaniel Bowditch.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BBZ4tE

Standing in the Light by Mary Pope Osborne

Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, by Mary Pope Osborne, was published in 1998 by Scholastic.

Catharine Carey Logan and her family have enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous life as the Quakers and Delaware Indians share a mutually trusting relationship. Recently, however, this friendship has been threatened by violence against the Indians. Then, Catharine and her brother are taken captive by the Lenape in retaliation. At first, Catharine is afraid of her captors. But when a handsome brave begins to teach her about the ways of the Lenape, she comes to see that all people share the same joys, hopes, and fears.

Rating: 3/5

I feel as if Standing in the Light was written for the sole purpose of portraying Native Americans in a different light than early American narratives, specifically “captive narratives” such as the one written by Mary Rowlandson. Or perhaps Osborne’s hope was to portray a captive narrative in a way that would respect both the thoughts and feelings of a captive English person and the thoughts and feelings of the Native Americans.

Osborne does a good job of showing both the Native Americans’ feelings towards the British—specifically the Lenape tribe—and the varying feelings of the British towards the Native Americans. Mention is made of William Penn’s friendship with the tribes in Pennsylvania and the treaty he made with them that was later broken by different leaders. While Osborne highlights more of the British negative treatment towards the Native Americans, she does at least mention some of the Native American aggressions towards the British—it’s good to show both sides and she handles the cause and effect nicely, showing how quickly things spiral out of control and how helpless people are to stop it.

My one complaint about Standing in the Light is that it’s rather boring. Its informational value is good, but the plot itself is predictable, even cliché. Catharine is a boring, cardboard character, solely there to be the voice of Osborne. It’s not a particularly memorable book, especially since it doesn’t cover a significant period of American history—it doesn’t take place during the French and Indian War or anything. It’s just a little “slice of life,” the story of a Quaker girl who gets captured by Native Americans. Perhaps interesting to some, but not particularly to me.

Standing in the Light does a good job of portraying both sides of the Native American-British conflict that was ongoing through the 1700s. I just wish the plot was less predictable and Catherine was a more memorable protagonist. Dear America has always been a series that stands out in its portrayals of historical events, but Standing in the Light is definitely one of its weak links.

Recommended Age Range: 8+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

The Reverend wants Papa and other Quaker Friends to ride to Lancaster tomorrow and help protect the frightened Indians on their sad march to Philadelphia.

We passed the Sabbath in much silence and prayer. When Papa began to read, “The Lord preserveth all them that love Him,” he stopped and could not read further. I think his heart especially aches for the little Indian children.

You can buy this book here:

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