Newbery Through the Decades: 1930s/February link-up

newbery through the decadesAre you all enjoying this as much as I am? :-)

I am so thrilled that several of you are playing along!  If you haven’t had a chance to go back and read everyone’s 1920s Newbery throughts, do go back and check out the comments on last month’s link up post!

As usual, I overestimated my amount of reading time at the beginning of the month, so I only managed to read one book from the 1930s:  Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs.  I enjoyed this one so much, and it has already sent me down a rabbit trail or three.  :-)

What did you read this month?  Please, share in the comments and/or link up your blog posts!  I am really looking forward to finding out your picks and pans from the 1930s!

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Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs

Reading Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs was like catching up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen (or truthfully even thought of) in years.  The subtitle of this juvenile biography is The story of the author of Little Women, and that’s just what it is.  However, it is written in such a way to seem almost novel-like, or at the very least not the dry, dusty, detailed tome one might think of when thinking of a biography.  Cornelia Meigs’ writing style is warm, engaging, and even entertaining.  (I shared one of my favorite little vignettes from the story here, if you’d like a little taste of Meigs’ style.)  This book was most certainly deserving of the 1932 Newbery Medal it received.   In some ways I can’t imagine a child reading this book and getting a whole lot out of it, but according to the Newbery Medal terms and criteria, the award is for books for children which means “persons of ages up to and including fourteen.”   I would say that this book is probably on the upper end of the age range, and thus it is particularly enjoyable to adults.

I can’t help but wonder if Meigs’ take on the Alcott family is a bit romanticized or idealized, especially when I think about my own studies of the Transcendentalist movement of which Bronson Alcott (Louisa’s father) was a part. According to Meigs, Louisa’s reason for being was to take care of her family, and when she finally achieved fame and fortune, this was what gave her satisfaction.  This seems a little bit strange to me, but perhaps this is my modern mindset that I’m bringing to the book.  And of course, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this one; I most certainly did–a lot.  This book is a winning combination of a fascinating subject written about in a beautiful way.  I love this short paragraph toward the end of the book.  It sums up Louisa’s life so beautifully:

Fame during a lifetime is something to win, but fame and affection which are to last a hundred years are rare indeed.  These Louisa had, with a richness of deserving about which we love to think as we look back at her, gay-spirited, vivid, and hopeful, waving not to May, but to us, across the century.  (185)

My curiosity about all things Louisa May Alcott is piqued.  I’d like to delve further into her life and her work.  I’m very familiar with Little Women, having read and re-read it as a child and teenager.  However, that is the extent of my reading of her or about her.  I think I need to remedy that!  I have the little juvenile novel Fruitlands by Gloria Whelan, which is about a pivotal time in the Alcott family’s life, at the ready, but I’ve also been thinking about hosting a little challenge for Louisa’s birth month, November.  Would anybody be up for that?  :-)

At any rate, I most definitely give Invincible Louisa a Highly Recommended and am happy to add it to my list of books read for the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge and to mark it off my Classics Club list!

newbery through the decades

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Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

I’ve found one of my favorite books of the year!  Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates is a juvenile biography and winner of the 1951 Newbery Medal.  It is the story of Ath-Mun, African prince captured by slave traders in 1725 as a fifteen year old boy in his homeland.  Through many long years of servitude as a slave, his sense of dignity is never diminished, only enhanced by his own God-given sense of worth.  Renamed Amos Fortune, he eventually buys his own freedom and, through time, the freedom of four other slaves.  He becomes a tanner, and a good one at that, and at the end of his life of ninety-one years is a well-respected member of his community.

There is SO much goodness in this juvenile biography!  I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this one as a history read-aloud at the beginning of the month.  Of course, this book offers ample opportunity to discuss the worth inherent in all human beings, regardless of skin color, religion, or ethnicity.  The theme of freedom, however, is one that I hadn’t reallly thought about, but it’s the one that runs through every bit of this story.  Amos Fortune gets what freedom really is.  One of my favorite parts of the story is toward the end when Amos and his wife purchase a girl from a poor black family through a public auction known as a vendue.  This whole concept–of indigent people being auctioned off to the lowest bidder, who would then be paid his price by the town to care for the needy person for a year–was new to me.  (Louise very astutely drew the comparison between this and foster care, and yes, I had to agree with her that it’s probably the nearest thing we have today to the concept.)  Amos and Violet take in Polly, but Polly is really quite dependent on them.  She is unable to learn at school, and even the simplest tasks are challenging for her.  She is also in poor health.  Amos’ goal, however, is for Polly to die free:

 Celyndia [Violet’s daughter] started to sob softly.  Amos put back his head and Violet saw him shape with his lips the familiar words.  “Thank you, Lord.”

Violet turned to him with a question in her eyes.

Amos answered it.  “I wanted her to die free.  I knew she didn’t have long when I bid on her, but she’s had almost a year of freedom.”

“She wasn’t ever a slave,” Violet reminded him.  “She was born free.”

He shook his head.  “She wasn’t free when she was so poor.” (160)

Amos is a man of deep faith and understanding:

Hate could do that to a man, Amos thought, consume him and leave him smoldering.  But he was a free man, and free at great cost, and he would not put himself in bondage again.  So Amos got up from the boulder and walked home and his friend Moses walked with him, the Moses who had followed a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night and kept himself free from the bickerings of his people so he could be their leader.  (173)

Like most books written decades ago, I’m sure this book has been the target of criticism and controversy. (For a little more about this, see this review.)  However, I did not really look at this book from the perspective of race at all, but rather the spiritual idea of freedom.  That’s why I loved it so much.  It was really neat to me and my girls, too, to know that Amos Fortune was a real person.  Maybe one day we’ll make it to New Hampshire to see his home and gravesite.  Highly Recommended.  (1950)

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WWW: Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs

I’m enjoying my book for the Newbery Through the Decades challenge, Invincible Louisa:  The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs, so much.  This little vignette from the beginning of the book about Abba May’s (Louisa May Alcott’s mother’s) great aunt is just delightful:

She was the great-aunt of Abba May’s, this Madame Dorothy Quincy Scott, and she did not go by any such informal title as made use of her first name.  Not Aunt Dorothy–perish the idea–nor Aunt Scott, but Aunt Hancock, from the name of her famous first husband.  She had married, when very young, that John Hancock whose bold signature leads the list of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  She was a bride when the Revolution was breaking out and was mistress of the Executive Mansion when her husband became the first Governor of Massachusetts.  A picturesque gentleman he was, courageous, extravagant, patriotic, and formidable, a man of great presence, coming to preside over the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in a crimson velvet suit and plumed hat, setting the first strong hand to the management of a new and turbulent commonwealth.  Dorothy was a spirited wife and upheld the grandeur of her position in good part.

The trials and troubles of launching a new country were not long over when John Hancock died.  His wife married again; but within the family at least, the name of James Scott never seemed to eclipse the first title, and she was always Aunt Hancock.  She lived to a great age and was the grand figure of the whole family relationship.  When it was reported that her great-niece Abba May was engaged to marry a schoolmaster, she issued an impressive summons that the young man should be brought to dine with her.  She liked to be kind, but to be so in a splendid and autocratic manner.

Joyous, yet perfectly respectful, was Bronson’s description of how she received them in great state, sitting in her big chair as though it were a throne.  She entertained them with reminiscences of her great days when she was the Governor’s lady on Beacon Hill, and dropped hints to Bronson that he should be properly impressed with the nature of the grand alliance he was about to make.  As they went in to dinner, she rated the servants for being slow; she announced that she always began dinner with pudding, since she did not like the foolish new fashion of pudding at the end.  She carved the great round of beef herself, because “Governor Hancock’s wrist was lame and she had fallen into the habit of carving while at the Mansion.” (26-27)

This whole thing just makes me smile.  :-)


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Yes, I declared on my latest Odds & Ends post that we have begun a massive decluttering project.  And yes, it really is true.  I impressed myself by purging forty items (I counted them!) in a scant thirty minutes or so on Saturday afternoon!  (Only two of which, by the way, were books.)


The girls and I also went to the library on Saturday afternoon.  :-)  I just happened to spot on the sale rack a L.M. Montgomery title that I didn’t own.

Fifty cents?


I even limited the number of books the girls could check out (and held my ground with them!) so that we brought home a mere thirty-four books as opposed to our usual sixty-four or eighty-four.

We were doing well and on our way out the door when I noticed the “clearance rack” outside the library door, just inside the foyer.  It was there that my resistance crumbled.

DSC_0003All five of L’Engle’s Time Quintet, like new condition?  Fifty cents for the lot of them?  Yes, please.



Six books for the Newbery shelf?  Sixty cents?  Well, only because I’m hosting the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge. . . 😉

DSC_0004A random assortment of books, only one of which we’ve read and loved (but that we didn’t own, or at least I don’t think we did, before)?  At eighty cents, this stack is a little more pricey.  A little.

$1.90 for all of them.  Less than $2.00.  What riches!  How could I say no?  :-)

If this is true, we’re in good great superb shape.

The decluttering mission, however, has just had a setback.



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