Newbery Through the Decades–1920s/January 2016 Linkup

newbery through the decadesRemember those big plans I started the month (and the new year!) with?  Yeah, well. . . life with four children, all of which have been sick in the past three weeks, happened.  I planned to read The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting aloud at the very least for this month’s challenge.  Upon further consideration, though, I decided to start with The Story of Doctor Dolittle, which I did.  The boys and I enjoyed it quite a bit, though I did expurgate it to make it a bit more palatable to more modern and enlightened sensibilities.  After finishing this one at almost the end of the month, I just didn’t have the heart to plunge into The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.  The DLM was none too eager to begin a new adventure with the good doctor either, so we didn’t.  Looking back at last year’s January challenge wrap-up post, I can see that a trend is emerging:  those 1920s titles are hard to get through!  It’s not exactly an auspicious way to begin the challenge, is it?  :-)  Ah, well. .  . next month will be more successful–I just know it!

How about you?  Did you read an actual Newbery winner from the 1920s?  Please, link up your reviews in the comments, or simply share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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Read Aloud Thursday–January 2016


Welcome to the first Read Aloud Thursday of 2016!  Have you all been hunkered down, reading great literature during all the cold and snowy weather many of us have been enjoying (or enduring)?  We haven’t had much in the way of wintry weather (other than cold and a dusting of snow), but what we have had here is sickness a-plenty.  :-(  We’ve had it for about two weeks, with one child getting sick, and then a few days later another child getting sick, until finally every last one of them had the crud (which turned out to be tonsillitis and ear infections in the girls, who were the last sick).  We’re better now, thank the Lord!  One of the girls is still kind of “puny,” as some of us say here in the South, but we are on the mend!

We have been reading, though we haven’t finished everything that I thought we would by the end of the month because of the sickness.  You know what?  That’s okay.  The books don’t expire at the end of the month (well, unless they’re library books or something 😉 ).  I have reviewed our lunchtime read for the month of January:  The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr.   That was a fun read!  I’m currently still reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to my girls at bedtime; we’re probably two-third to three-fourths of the way through it. Reading this aloud to them is a momentous occasion in my life personally; I shared a bit about that here.

The DLM and I (as well as Benny, when he was willing to listen in) read The Story of Doctor Dolittle together, which was a fun (if controversial) story.  I intended to start with him on The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (for my Newbery Through the Decades Challenge),
but he wasn’t too interested in it.  Instead I offered him a new Esther Averill book I was keeping in reserve, and he pounced on it.  (See what I did there?)  He LOVED Jenny and the Cat Club, so I knew another Jenny Linsky story would be welcomed.   This is a short-but-entertaining story about Jenny’s experience in (what else?) a boarding school for cats.  She is a bit nervous about going there while her owner, Captain Tinker, goes off on a voyage.  Her nervousness is justified when she gets there and Pickles the Fire Cat tries to run her over with his hook-and-ladder truck.  Jenny runs away from the school and has a few adventures, but all is resolved when Jenny goes back to the school where, with the help of her new friends, she stands up to Pickles and makes a friend of him, too.  This is NOT a chapter book like I expected; instead it is a long picture book.  It’s just as sophisticated and entertaining as the stories in Jenny and the Cat Club, but I was a little big disappointed that it turned out to be only one story.  (I guess that just means I should read the descriptions more thoroughly before I order books!)  Nevertheless, we give Jenny Linsky, the red-scarf-wearing-cat, as well as the author Esther Averill a Highly Recommended.   I’m not sure what we’ll read next, though I might pick a book off my own list of chapter books for the youngest listeners.  

What have you read together this month?  I’d love to hear all about it!  Please share in the comments.

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The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr

We kicked 2016 off with The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr as our history read-aloud.  Read mostly just after lunch, this book is one that both the girls and the boys (at times 😉 ) listened to.  It’s the story of Simon Greene, a fifteen-year-old third grade drop-out whose big break comes when he buys, with the help of his beloved one-room schoolhouse school ma’am, a flock of 1,000 turkeys to take to Denver from their home in Missouri to sell at market.  Simon is painted as a lovable but not-very-bright fellow, though his practical side and wisdom (not to mention heart) shine on his great turkey drive.  He is joined by a drover, Mr. Bidwell Peece, a man he rescues from the saloon after he is cited as the best drover in town.  Also along for the great turkey walk are Mr. Peece’s faithful dog, Emmett, and a runaway slave they pick up along the way, Jabeth Ballou.  The quartet experience all sorts of adventures and encounter all sorts of obstacles on their walk.  The obstacles mostly come in the form of people, the most formidable of which is Simon’s ne’er-do-well and absentee father, a circus strongman with dollar signs in his eyes when he sees Simon’s turkeys.  The last quarter or so of the story highlights a budding romance between Simon and a recently bereaved girl they rescue along the way to Denver.  I was ho-hum about this story for about the first three-fourths of it, but the conclusion really made me smile.  All in all, the story reminds me a lot of By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman, which we read last fall, because of the whole going west theme, as well as the sort of adventures they all have along the way.  As far as the history goes, this story’s fairly light on that, offering what one might see as a modern perspective on things like race relations and grief and other difficult topics. (An Author’s Note in the back  does explain that turkey walks really were a thing, just like the great cattle drives of days of yore.)    Still, I’m glad we read it.  My one quibble with this story is that Simon Greene definitely sounds uneducated, which is fine–I don’t mind dialect at all.  However, his consist use of subjects and verbs that do not agree really began to bother me, especially because little ears were listening in.  This is a fun read, though not necessarily a can’t-be-missed title.  I would be interested in reading something else by Kathleen Karr.  (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998)

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The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

How I came to read The Story of Doctor Dolittle instead of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (which I intended to read for this month’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge) is representative of the optimistic homeschool rabbit trail-meandering I often do.  First I decided to read The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle aloud to my boys (the DLM, and Benny as often as he wanted to listen), but after some discussion of that on one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of, I decided it might be better to read The Story of Doctor Dolittle first since it comes first in the series.  Then someone warned me that this book has a good bit inappropriate racial material in it.  Never one to balk at the non-PC, I plunged in.  For the most part we enjoyed this story of the good doctor who knows how to speak the language of the animals.  The chapters are short, though not episodic (I find that combination the very best for both my faulty memory and my boys’ short attention spans).  The best part, of course, is the animals, with all their fun-to-say-but-impossible-for-me-to-remember names:  Chee Chee, Gub Gub, Dab Dab, Jip, and Polynesia.  Without a doubt the DLM’s favorite part was that about the two headed beast, the Pushmi-Pullyu.  I agree–that’s just funny to even think about.  He also really enjoyed the exciting ending, complete with a Barbary pirate and a kidnapped uncle.  I did completely expurgate a couple of chapters in which an African prince wishes to move to the land of the white man, where he might become white, too.  This goes beyond the pale of being non-PC into being just downright wrong.  I also expurgated every reference to “the land of white men.”  I tried to keep this one about the animals and the amazing doctor, and not about unfortunate racial ideas of early twentieth century.  The five year old DLM definitely enjoyed this story, and I’ve already pulled The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle off the shelf to read.   Alas, this will not happen in the month of January, hence my reference above to being overly optimistic in my rabbit trail chasing. I should point out, too, that I read the free Kindle version of The Story of Doctor Dolittle, and not the copy I’ve linked above; thus, I cannot vouch for what version of the story you might read if you purchase that copy.  (You can read about the plot controversy here on Wikipedia.)

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All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

I did it!  I did it!  I finally read All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor!  I’ve had it on my Classics Club list for years now, but it took using it for part of our learning time for me to actually read it.  (I’m noticing a pattern about my reading life:  the best way to ensure that I’ll read a book is to tie it to my children’s schooling.)  Although both of my girls have read it and its sequels (and maybe even more than once), I decided to assign it to ten year old Louise to work through the Arrow with her.   This classic story has so many things that I love:  episodic chapters, an insight into a different culture and religion, strong parental figures, an imperfect-but-loving family, and even a bit of mystery.  I admit that I am a little jealous of Mama’s parenting wisdom in this story, too–hiding buttons in the room to get the girls to dust without complaining?  Genius!  My only regret with this one is that I didn’t read it aloud to my girls when they were younger.  This would make an excellent read aloud!  I suppose I can always attempt it as a read-aloud with the boys.  We’ll see how well they take to books with female protagonists.  Anyway, I definitely give it an enthusiastic Highly Recommended.

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