Awards – 1922 through 1940

1922  The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon

I have to object to the title of this book – this is not the history of mankind. This is the history of western europeans. There’s nothing about china, japan, india, phillipines – nothing in asia at all. Secondly this is a story, not really history. Mr. Van Loon presents as facts all kinds of things that are up for debate. As a wide reaching overview of history it has some limited value, but overall this book is dated and, while the intent is admirable, the execution doesn’t live up to the promise.   (Nov 2008)

1923  The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

This is a fanciful look at the natural world – very much from a child’s view. In this world one can ride on the back of a giant sea snail’s back right down to the depths of the ocean, and islands can float, and animals have extensive languages that can be learned. I loved Dr. Dolittle – he is pleasant and interested and good. This tale reminded me of tales such as “The Odyssey” or “Gulliver’s Travels”. An enjoyable read.    (Oct 2008)

1924   The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes

This is an adventure story, perfect for boys. However, modern boys might be at pains to get through it, which is a shame. The hero of this book is brave, true, and confident in his ability and worth. Well written, good plot line, and leaves the reader wanting to know more about Philip.    (Dec 2009)

1925  Tales from Silver Lands by Charles J. Finger

Gleaned from his travels in South America, these folktales vary in their styles.  Some seem very familiar to those of the Brother Grimm, while others are very clearly morality tales where virtue gives great strength.  There is a flavor of South America, but also a timeless and placeless quality to the tales.  Some of the funnest stories are the ones that explain things like where monkeys came from and how the flamingo got its red and pink feathers. (Jun 2010)

1926  Shen of The Sea: Chinese Stories for Children by Arthur Bowie Chrisman

This was an enjoyable collection of Chinese folk tales. Some had the flavor of Grimms’ fairy tales, where the poor man who befriends the beggar, ends up a king. Others reminded me of folktales where we learn how the rabbit got its long ears. Fun stories that have a familiar ring, dressed up in the trappings of the Orient.   (Dec 2008)

1927  Smoky The Cow Horse by Will James

This was an enjoyable read, though the colloquial language took some time to get used to. Mr. James convincingly describes the life of Smoky, the cowhorse. While he describes Smoky as having some human feelings, he also manages to make Smoky seem realistically a horse. Smoky’s life is somewhat tragic – the more so since his life is not untypical. But there is a happy ending and examples of real kindness.  (Jan 2009)

1928  Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji

This was an interesting (though very anthropomorphic) account of training pigeons, and one pigeon in particular who served a stint as a messenger pigeon during war. Also nice was the glimpse of India from the turn of century (19th – 20th).    (Dec 2008)

1929  The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

This was a well realized historical story of medieval Krakow. I enjoyed the legend/history of the trumpeter role of watchman and herald and found the story of the Tarnov Crystal interesting as well. Other points of interest included descriptions of the what the city was like during those time, cultural issues such as threat of fire, medieval witchcraft and the state of science.     (Dec 2008)

1930  Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field

This was an enjoyable book to read. It was unique in that the narrator is timeless and so is looking at things from a unique perspective. The fact that Hitty was passed around so much and yet somehow ended back where she started at the beginning of the book was a little contrived, but it made for fun reading anyhow.  (Jan 2009)

1931  The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

This is a sweet fable-like story. There is a nice introduction to the life of Buddha and a pleasing resolution to the problem of the cat. I also enjoyed the setting – it was believable without hitting me over the head that this was a foreign country. The illustrations for this version were also beautiful – particularly the animals.    (Dec 2008)

1932  Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer

The best thing about this book is the sense of atmosphere and place that the author creates.  While there’s not much of a story, there is such a beautiful picture of Navajo life in the early part of the 1900’s.  Granted, the view is filtered through the non-Navajo writer, but it is beautiful nonetheless.  Younger Brother is one of those characters who is in tune spiritually with the world around him and Ms. Armer is able to show that without the character coming across as naive, or as mystical. (Jan 2011)

1933   Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

I really enjoyed this look at life in the Chinese city Chungking at the turn of the century. Watching Young Fu come of age was enjoyable and his experiences and life are interesting in terms of Chinese culture. It is clear that Ms. Lewis loved China and the people she came to know.    (Jan 2009)

1934  Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs

Written in 1933, this is an idealized look at Louisa May Alcott’s life. Her life was an interesting and difficult one, and yet Ms. Meigs makes of Louisa the ideal heroine. Reading this book creates a feeling that the Alcotts were noble, thoughtful, cheerful people who had figured out the secret of happiness. For a child reader, this book gives ample detail of Louisa’s whole life. For an adult, I kept having the feeling that I was reading about someone not quite real.     (Dec 2008)

1935  Dobry by Monica Shannon

Filled with simple yet strong illustrations, this tale of a Bulgarian peasant boy has the same feel to it – strong and yet simple.  Village life for Dobry revolves around the traditions that mark the passing of the seasons – planting, caring for the animals, the arrival of the gypsies, the religious celebrations.   The story of Dobry’s growing artistic ability is told as a natural recognition of who he is.  I find myself wondering if this tale can be at all a reflection of how life really ever was in Bulgaria.  It would be nice to think so. (Apr 2011)

1936  Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

I have been reading the Little House on the Prairie series with my kids and this book makes an interesting companion to those. These girls grew up in similar circumstances and yet their stories are unique. In this novel, Ms. Brink introduces the idea of immigration – Caddie’s father is English. She also introduces the conflict between meeting society’s norms and doing what is right or healthy (the family’s friendship with the Indians, Caddie’s unconventional upbringing). I loved the conclusion of this novel, when Caddie’s father talks to her about what it means to be a woman – not what you wear or necessarily how you follow the rules of etiquette, but how you contribute to the world your unique gifts and talents. And I loved that as Caddie began to learn about more feminine jobs in her family, her brothers did too! This was a favorite book of mine as a girl and I’m glad to see that it is still a great read!  (Feb 2010)

1937  Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

This novel is a curious mix of enthusiastic zest and heartbreaking sorrow. I loved Lucinda over the course of this story – she was wholeheartedly kind and thoughtful. The nicest part of this novel was the fact that although Lucinda was given more reign over her life, she used the freedom in such good ways – and there was a little spice of naughtiness tossed in. Definitely one to re-read.  (Feb 2010)

1938  The White Stag by Kate Seredy

In terms of re-telling a famous historical legend or myth of Attila the Hun, this is an entertaining and adventurous volume. Ms. Seredy uses a style similar to that of epic poems. Of note are the illustrations for which Ms. Seredy is also responsible. This is a quick read and a great introduction of an unfamiliar literary style for most children and youth.  (Feb 2010)

1939  Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

I really enjoyed this book – I’m such a pushover for books about girls in the past – although this was contemporary fiction at the time it was written (the 1930’s). Garnet is a likable girl and I love the adventures she gets up to. Some of the things the kids in this book do would be appalling today – like hitchhiking to a nearby town without telling anyone where she was going. The scenes from the county fair were some of my favorite. Charming tale of a farming family in Wisconsin.  (Feb 2010)

1940  Daniel Boone by James Daugherty

The author illustrated this kid-friendly biography of Daniel Boone.  The writing style is very flowery, which makes it somewhat dated (I’m not sure a kid of today would find the reading easy going).  Also, Mr. Daugherty paints his Indians as a savage race, bent on blood shed, and best shot on sight.  You’d have a hard time finding a book today with this take on the American Indians of the past.  I would have liked more concrete stories from Mr. Boone’s life – mostly Mr. Daugherty talks of what a courageous pioneer he was, striding off into the west.  All very good and well, but it would have been more interesting with more stories.  The only real stories are of his fights with the Indians. (Jun 2010)

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