Lois Lenski – Redeemed Reader

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Who was Lois Lenski?

Lois Lenski was a prolific writer who lived from the late 19th to the 20th century. She was a Midwesterner, daughter of R.C.H. Lenski (a Lutheran minister whose comments were regularly mentioned from the pulpit by my non-Lutheran pastor) and a Newbery laureate whose line drawings enriched all of her books.

Why Lenski is important to me

I was deeply impressed by Lenski's work. My mother read us Puritan Adventure, Indian Captive and Strawberry Girl; I devoured many others alone, including Judy's trip, Mama Hattie's girl and Coal-Camp Boy.

I wrote my master's thesis on Lenski's strong female characters and compared the wise and stupid women who influenced young girls when they were growing up. The worst characters always found some kind of redemption in the end.

When I spoke to a library user about the religious issues in Strawberry Girl, I discovered a related ghost who was becoming a roommate. My life would not be the same without Lenski.

picture books

Lenski wrote small-format picture books for her own little boys about ordinary people who lived in the mid-20th century. Policeman Small, Cowboy Small, The Little Sailboat and The Little Fire Engine are still popular in my family. (We joke about Firefighter Small and tell the family, whose house was on fire, that "they should move back in soon!"). (Note: The small sailing boat is on our extended list of the Summer Reading Challenge!)

Note: The titles are linked to Amazon or Purple House Press. We participate in the Amazon LLC affiliate program. Purchases made through affiliate links such as the following can earn us a commission. Read more here. We don't earn Purple House Press commission; We only like to support small presses.

Regional and historical novels

I am part of Lenski's regional books. She invested a lot of time to visit children across the country, hear their personal experiences and write living stories about them. She created strong characters with deep family relationships that readers could identify with, and maintained the different dialects and cultures of our nation from a child's perspective.

Her historical fiction focuses on the early years of our country's history. There are not many detailed middle-class novels from this period, and Lenski's books are ideal for reading aloud or for personal selection.

If you haven't read Lenski's books yet, this is the perfect time to start! I am delighted that Purple House Press is reprinting Phebe Fairchild, her book and Ocean-Born Mary. Both titles are out of print and very expensive. This is an exciting opportunity to improve your home library.

Lenski's regional collections are currently a bargain on Kindle, and the picture books for younger children are great as builders or gifts for home libraries. I can only recommend Strawberry Girl and Indian Captive that are on Newbery lists. These two books are very inexpensive, otherwise you can order them from your local indie bookstore. You can also find them on Overdrive.

Tomorrow I hope to share some brief reviews of individual titles.

Did you read any Lenski books? What are your favorites?

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