Monday, November 1, 2010

Carol Ryrie Brink

How many of you are familiar with Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink?  Often a forgotten jewel of a story, I wish there was a resurging awareness of this frontier narrative.  Caddie grows up in a family full of brothers, and she conducts herself as an adventure loving tomboy, much to her Boston bred mother's chagrin.  Brink packs each chapter with the spunky Caddie and her brother's escapades as they maneuver the hazards of frontier life in mid-nineteenth century Wisconsin.  What stands out most to me in remembering this book, however, is that Brink casts Caddie's father as the hero.  I think we need more of those around -- books that cast daddies as heroes!  Caddie Woodlawn is a "must read" for all members of the family, perfect for either reading alone or reading aloud.  Also of noteworthy interest, Brink bases Caddie's story on her own grandmother's childhood.   I've included a copy of the old edition cover I grew up reading.

Now that you know how much I fell for Brink's little jewel of a book, you can imagine my surprise and elation when I discovered Brink's poem Goody O'Grumpity in the children's book section of our library.  Ashley Wolff's intricate hand-colored linoleum prints further lend a detailed description to this simple story poem.  The poem opens with "When Goody O'Grumpity baked a cake" and continues on about an early Plymouth Plantation neighbor making a spice cake while the village children eagerly wait "With wishful eyes / and watering mouth."  Don't be mislead by Goody's last name "O'Grumpity."  It's not at all a characterization of her.  Brink uses it for the rhyme.  So do check out this harvest season gem of a book, and be sure to read the illustrator's note at the beginning.

If you end up enjoying Goody O'Grumpity as much as I did, try Jane Yolen's Harvest Home poem illustrated by Greg Shed.  Yolen's beautiful lyrical narrative describes a family's and community's work in harvesting wheat and the harvest traditions that follow.  Shed's illustrations reverberate the harvest theme in its golden, "sun kissed hues done in gouache on canvas."  Again, be sure to read the "Harvest Customs" note in the back of the book.

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