Posts Tagged ‘religion’

These books are fascinatingly written. The frame story is that there are legends, songs, and tales about the women of Great Alta, and that historians fight constantly about the meanings of these legends.  Each chapter includes some “history”, some “legend” and then the “true story” of what really happened.  The women of Great Alta (and their shadow sisters) have a complex and magical way of life, which is brought to life all the more fully through the layered way Yolen constructs the books. The books are a great commentary on what we do or do not know about past cultures.

Author: Jane Yolen

Order: Sister Light, Sister Dark; White Jenna; The One-Armed Queen


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doorinthewallTitle: The Door in the Wall

Author/Illustrator: Marguerite de Angeli

Newbery 1950

This is a sweet story, but doesn’t have very much meat to it.  It follows a sort of classic ‘disabled people have something to contribute to society’ format, with the slight twist that it takes place in the Middle Ages.  However, I don’t get the sense that the author did very much research before placing her story in that time period – there are details that don’t ring true with better-researched books I’ve read.  The ambient religiosity may be uncomfortable for some readers, though it is historically accurate.  There are better historical fiction books with more accurate representations of this time.

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Witch of Blackbird PondTitle: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Author: Elizabeth George Speare

Newbery 1959

Given my review of The Bronze Bow, I approached this one with some trepidation.  This story, however, has all of the good points and none of the religious heavy-handedness of its successor.  Kit is a relatively well-developed character, and the Puritans are not flat caricatures of themselves.  They are real people, just a little over-straight-laced.  The ending is a little too pat, but it’s nice to have a book that ends well for everyone every once in a while.   This book would be great, as it is often used, as a fictional introduction to a unit on early American history.

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The Bronze BowTitle: The Bronze Bow

Author: Elizabeth George Speare

Newbery 1962

This is a well-constructed and well-told story, but I am not sure that I can bring myself to recommend it without reservations.  I know that many Newbery winners are used in middle school English programs, but I would hope never to find this on a required reading list in a public school.  It starts out simply as historical fiction, but any historical fiction in which Jesus is a character becomes quickly unsimplified.  He is portrayed as the son of God, miracles and all.  A well-rounded and human son of God, but holy nonetheless, and the emotional focus of the book.

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CrispinTitle: Crispin: The Cross of Lead

Author: Avi

Newbery 2004

I get the feeling that this was more an “Avi should have got a Newbery by now” than “best book of the year.”  Avi’s fiftieth book, this is a relatively simple and classic boy-gets-rescued-from-serfdom-and-learns-he’s-high-born kind of story, with a pretty much unbelievable ending.  That being said, it was very entertaining and a good adventure, with humor and some historically accurate details (the 14th century life being stinky, brutish, and short, for example).  There is also a sequel, which I will have to read at some point – I do want to know what happens to Crispin and Bear.

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WrinkleInTimeTitle: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeline L’Engle

Newbery 1963

A pleasure to return to this series. These books were some of my favorites when I was in middle school. I enjoyed this one just about as much now. I had not noticed the somewhat religious overtones before, though – a few Bible quotes, mention of God in a pretty clearly Judeo-Christian mode, etc. However, these mentions worked in the larger framework of the book, and are not too overt. The character of Charles Wallace is wonderful, as are Meg and Cal. There’s also a great 1962 mention of “large computing machines.” I may need to reread the whole series.

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Animals of the BibleTitle: Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book

Illustrator: Dorothy P. Lathrop

Text selected by: Helen Dean Fish

Caldecott 1938

What a strange little book is the first-ever Caldecott.  Fish collected every single mention of animals anywhere in the King James Bible, and then Lathrop illustrated most of them. Strange concept. The illustrations are, in the edition I had, rather faded and poorly reproduced, but still well done. The animals are all very rounded and fuzzy and cute – even the Leviathan. Probably a great book to have at Sunday school, but I don’t know as you need to have one at home. The illustrations are black and white, so they could also be used as coloring pages at Sunday school.

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