Lois Lenski Books: A pattern

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Lois Lenski books continue to be entertaining and insightful reading for all ages.

Lois Lenski books

Yesterday I gave a long overdue introduction to an author who has had a major impact on my life. Isn't it funny how it happens? First, Mama read Puritan Adventure and Strawberry Girl. Then I read Judy's trip, Mama Hattie's girl, Blueberry Corners, Indian Captive, and others, because most of Lenski's regions were in my room.

During my Masters in Children's Literature at Hollins University, I decided to examine Lenski's female characters for my thesis. Six of her books fit my purposes very well, and I was thrilled to find redemption patterns in her storytelling.

Now I rediscover her with my family. I can't cover all of them in one post. I just want to stimulate your appetite.

The little books

The little sailboat. Random House, 2003.

Lenski wrote little books about the smalls when their boys were little. She wrote about the small family and individuals of various professions with the surname Small. (Were they extended family members? We are never told. Tinker, the dog, is often there, and the little car appears beyond his own book, so Papa Small may be wearing a lot of hats.)

They describe an ordinary day in the life of a cowboy, police officer, firefighter and sailor, all worthy endeavors for typical little boys who never dream of office or factory jobs. (What would the matchbox version of a desk with chair and paperwork look like, I wonder?)

  • The small sailboat (included in our Hope on the Horizon summer reading program) offers a simple sailing trip with joys (fishing), dangers (falling overboard! A storm!) And nautical terminology. In the end, everything is comfortably good and cozy. "And that's all" about the little books.

An important observation: There is a boardbook edition that does NOT contain all nautical descriptions and definitions. I recommend the hardcover version.

Why I admire Lenski's regional and historical fiction

Lenski was serious about her research. Before writing one of her regional books, she visited a certain part of the country to get to know the people, their habits, their stories and their dialects. You will truly appreciate the diversity of our nation if you see a coal warehouse, a migrant field, or a child's neighbors through the eyes of a child.

Both in the region and in history, the children are constantly asking questions. How do you keep strawberries fresh while they are being transported north? How are such heavy ropes made? In this way, the reader appreciates the details of life.

There are enough battles, snakes, dangers, real misery, and fiery characters to keep the story alive, with a happy ending that is satisfying and not sugar-sweet.

All right, all right, on to a few more summaries.

Regional fiction

Strawberry Girl, HarperCollins, 1945.

Judy's Journey, Open Road Media Teen and Tween, reprint, 2011.

  • Strawberry Girl and Judy & # 39; s Journey both emphasize families that work hard in the fields. Birdie Boyer (Strawberry Girl) has a home but highly undesirable neighbors. This Newbery laureate is a great introduction to Lenski's charm.
  • Judy Drummond's family is driven out of their sad tenant house and travels along the east coast to harvest the crop. She longs for a house with a white picket fence, has the regular grief of meeting friends and losing them, and endures the disappointment of having missed an education.

Historical fiction

Ocean-Born Mary. Purple House Press, 2020.

Phebe Fairchild, your book. Purple House Press, 2020.

Indian prisoner. Open Road Media, reprint. 2011.

Okay, I have to share a quote from my work here:

In these historical novels, the maturation process from girls to women is an important topic. Although the characters in these books are very similar, each one is different. The family structure often shapes the difference. The close-knit families in Puritan Adventure and Blueberry Corners allow the child to transform the house, especially by celebrating Christmas, which was once prohibited. Phebe Fairchild and Ocean-Born Mary find their adventures outside their immediate family and return home with no major changes. Mindwell in Bound Girl by Cobble Hill and Molly by Indian Captive transform themselves personally because they grow through adversity and create a home by uniting with a new family or culture. So the environment and circumstances of the home and the relationships with the other characters determine the course of the heroine when she reaches femininity.

In search of femininity: How Lois Lenski's little girls learn to change their world

Exciting isn't it ?!

Start here with Lenski's historical fiction

You don't normally hear anything about it except Newbery Honorary Winner Indian Captive. It's a shame, but it's even more reason to be excited about the upcoming reprints of Phebe Fairchild, Her Book, and Ocean-Born Mary from Purple House Press.

  • Although ocean-born Mary heard the story of the pirate who saved her life when she was born, there is no substitute for meeting him yourself and deciding whether he is really kind or whether he is ultimately evil.
  • Phebe Fairchild returns to her father's roots while he is at sea and has to reconcile with the family from which he has distanced himself. Her book is a copy of Mother Goose, a gift from her father, which is unworthy foolishness for Aunt Hannah and needs to be hidden.
  • "Molly" (Mary) Jemison was captured from her family at the age of fifteen and lived with Native Americans for the rest of her life, despite the opportunity to return to "civilized" society. She learns a lot from the women of the tribe, from the importance of work to the love of nature and the Seneca.

Although Lenski was unable to interview her topics in person, she based some of her stories on real people and events. She showed how multifaceted people are and even allowed her heroine to wrestle with the concept "Who is my enemy?" Are all Indians bad? Could a pirate turn into an honest man?

Her conclusions are always hopeful, which is why Lois Lenski books continue to be entertaining and insightful reading for all ages.

P.S. You can also see Lenski's illustrations in the Betsy Tacy books and many other books from her life. It was productive.

Enjoy your discoveries and please come back and tell me about it!

If you missed the first Lenski post, you can find it here.

Take part in our summer reading program Hope on the Horizon! We also created a book list of more than 75 titles for lonely islands because we all feel stranded (and because brainstorming book lists is almost as fun as actually reading the books).

More classic, productive authors? How about Henty or Lovelace?

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