Tag Archives: children’s literature

Girl at Arms, by Jaye Bennett

Notwithstanding the remarkable youth of the historical Joan of Arc, I wouldn’t have automatically assumed her a ready subject for a middle grade novel. Of course it’s impossible not to admire her courage and determination, and I recognize that she must be considered in the context of her times. But let’s just say that her story has the potential to be a little … troubling.

For starters there are the voices. Not that I don’t believe in visions, but the question of whether God would employ them for the defense of a European monarch has always raised doubts in my mind. Then there’s the fact that Joan was leading armies into battle, which inevitably involves violence. And then there’s the ending: she gets burned at the stake. That alone was enough to make me a reluctant reader. Continue reading

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Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher

What a felicitous find! I was searching for Susan Cooper’s young adult novels when this previously unknown-to-me work by Susan Fletcher caught my eye. What a surprise to learn that it concerns ancient Persia (a general interest of mine) and the Magi (Brian and I once brainstormed a novel not unlike Susan’s after a one-week visit to Iran)  and that the author lives just an hour and a half away!

All that excitement could have been preparatory to a disappointment, but it most definitely was not. Fletcher writes both engagingly and “elegantly” (in the words of a NY Times reviewer of Shadow Spinner). I am (alas) one of those readers who often skims over descriptive passages, but I sat spellbound while Fletcher’s magical metaphors conjured up mirages before my very eyes. Only they seemed much more substantial than mirages. Continue reading

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Kids and Animals and a Free Book

Children seem to have a natural affinity for animals. Nothing excites my daughter more than a bouncy puppy–or a burly lab, for that matter. So far, in her 18 months of life, she has not evinced any fear of dogs, aside from a developing aversion to being licked in the face. (Lately she has shown a greater interest in the hindquarters than in the anterior portions of canines.) Her first word was “Woof!” Followed closely by “Grr!” “Quack!” “Baa!” “Neigh!” “Eee-ee-oo-oo!” (monkey) and “Tch-tch-tch!” (squirrel). She had an impressive repertoire of animal sounds long before she said “Mama” or “Daddy” with any consistency … we’re still waiting for our turn, in fact. We taught and rehearsed these performances in the beginning, but she now generates her own animal sounds based on real-life observations (along with the sound of a drill, sirens, the dryer, and sausage squealing in the microwave…I guess this could be construed as an animal sound in a morbid sort of way). (Keep reading, for an invitation to send in a story and get a free book.) Continue reading

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Do Like a Duck Does, by Judy Hindley

Why are there so many children’s stories and songs about ducks? Ducklings are cute, but they’re not exactly cuddly. Supposedly you can get them to imprint and follow you around (like in “Fly Away Home”), but we recently discovered in our household that this is easier said than done. My sister persuaded me to co-invest in ducklings; I wanted eggs and she wanted pets. They didn’t imprint, though, and now we have five overgrown grain-fed teenagers of unknown gender that eat a lot of food, produce a lot of poop, and so far don’t give anything back (not to discount their contribution to the compost pile).

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When the Aardvark Parked on the Ark, by Calvin Miller

I must have bought this book for my sister sometime in the late ’80s, but the fact had been wiped from my memory until recently, when I ran across it in my parents’ home while looking for something to read to my daughter at bedtime. I find it remarkable that these whimsical poems reminiscent of Shel Silverstein could come from the author of such venerable and contemplative works as two series of poetic allegories (The Singer Trilogy and The Divine Symphony–which I have read) and The Table of Inwardness and Into the Depths of God (which I have not). Continue reading

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