Genre: United States

Middle Grade Monday: Little Author in the Big Woods (2014) by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Middle Grade Monday: Little Author in the Big Woods (2014) by Yona Zeldis McDonoughLittle Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Published by Macmillan on September 16th 2014
Genres: 19th Century, Biography & Autobiography, Girls & Women, Historical, History, Literary, Middle Grade, Nonfiction, United States
Pages: 176
Goodreads

Suggested age range: 7 and up

The Book: Divided into eight chapters and illustrated with charming and comfy black and white pencil drawings, McDonough’s biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a good choice for elementary readers interested in the life of the beloved Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Here we learn more about the lives of Laura’s parents, Charles and Caroline, and about Laura’s early life growing up in the “Big Woods.” The book follows Laura all the way until her death, providing details about her life with Almanzo, her daughter, Rose, and her life as a writer. Readers will recognize events shared in the biography if they’re familiar with the Little House books. This is something the author mentions—the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the life she knew—and which made her historical fiction that much more powerful. The book also includes quotes of Laura’s, “Games Laura Played,” a craft, and even recipes of foods mentioned by Laura.

Highlights: Love the map in the front of the book—“Places Laura Lived”—including the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. At several points in the book, the author connects different events in Laura’s life to reinforce how those events contributed to her becoming a writer. These reminders made me think about how so many factors influence the roles we end up filling in our lives—but if we have a strong passion for something, it’s hopeful that we’ll end up nurturing that anyway.

Who Should Read This Book: Readers of the beloved Little House books will appreciate this short and sweet biography, peppered with charming black and white drawings of various scenes from Laura’s life. It’s an easy read, filled with loads of information and interesting details about the various moves Laura’s family took throughout her life.

To Read or Not to Read?: Yes! I’ve been a fan of the Little House books since I was a young reader, and I have always been fascinated by the fact that the books were inspired by the real life of a girl growing up on the Prairie. This biography reminded me of how much I loved reading about the Ingalls family and the daily routines of their life back in the middle of the 19th century. Historical fiction is a genre I ADORED as a young reader, and I still LOVE a good historical read today. You’ll notice I don’t post reviews of as many nonfiction books on the blog, but reading Little Author in the Big Woods has made me rethink that. Nonfiction literature for children and young adults is a valuable genre, and it may be that my jaunt over the vast space Laura Ingalls Wilder journeyed during her lifetime via this short read just may inspire me to pursue more nonfiction journeys for young readers in the near future!

Do you have a favorite Nonfiction read from 2014? Or from any year that you think I absolutely must read??

What Katie Read

A Toy’s Adventure & Connecting Countries

A Toy’s Adventure & Connecting CountriesThe Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2012-05
Genres: 20th Century, Family, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Multigenerational, United States
Pages: 201
Goodreads

I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make the acquaintance of Bunny, bent on revenge; Lois, with her head in the clouds; Willie Mae, who not only awakened my heart, but broke it; and Lucy, a friend so dear, not even war could part us. I have put this tale to paper because from those 58 Friendship Dolls only 45 remain. I know that someone who chooses this book is capable of solving the mystery of the missing sisters. Perhaps that someone is you. From the Hardcover edition.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
Jawaharlal Nehru

Suggested age range: 8 and up

Though I read this book late spring of this year, I am just now posting my review of the novel near the end of almost two months of travel abroad.

Think Hitty, Her First Hundred Years plus The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Those are two of my favorite novels so it is no surprise that Kirby Larson’s 2011 The Friendship Doll became a new favorite. This book is amazing!! It is a slim volume of 201 pages, and yet I tried to read it slowly, in hopes that I could draw out the conclusion. I would not have minded had the book continued on for several hundred more pages. It has been awhile since a book has moved me so, and my hope is that should you read the story, it will move you as well.

The story opens with a real historical event—in 1927, 58 amazing dolls were sent to the United States by Japanese schoolchildren in a symbolic act of reaching out in friendship. One of those 58 dolls is Miss Kanagawa, the doll who narrates the story and encounters various girls over the years, whose lives she touches in profound ways. The time period of the novel begins in 1927 and ends in the present day. There are significant spiritual themes that emerge through these exchanges, such as compassion, hope, faith, and forgiveness. Miss Kanagawa is not able to talk to the people she meets, but even without explicit oral discourse, she is still able to communicate with them and touch their hearts. Through Miss Kanagawa’s travels, the reader meets Bunny, Lois, Willie Mae, and Lucy. All the girls face different challenges and issues through which they must work, such as unforgiveness and selfishness. They also develop traits such as bravery and kindness. It is with Miss Kanagawa’s help that they find resolution.

Needless to say, this story assuredly reflects multiple spiritual dimensions, and this reader can attest to the way the book nurtured my own spirituality and even encouraged me to become more aware of those around me who might be suffering, but do not show it. The story reminded me that small gestures of kindness can mean the world to another person, and also that sharp words can cause terrible damage and hurt. The historical dimensions of the book deepened my awareness of how relations between countries can be strengthened in surprising and creative ways. Perhaps this also points to the idea that connections between people can also be fueled in ways we would never have considered—the notion of exchanging dolls as gifts between America and Japan may not be something the average person knows about. Yet, Larson bases her story on a very real event when fifty-eight friendship dolls were given to the United States by Japanese schoolchildren in 1927.

This is the perfect book to blog about while I am nearing the conclusion of a rich and wonderful journey through multiple countries (England, Belgium, France, Israel) this summer.

Are there any excellent children’s or young adult books you have read this summer that relate to travel or the meeting of other cultures?

What Katie Read
%d bloggers like this: