Wednesday, April 7, 2010

History & Culture: World War I and the Jazz Age (1914 - 1928)

In the excitement of Easter, I'd almost forgotten to post our history and culture books for March. We filled the month only by skipping a week (which we called Spring Break) while my parents were in town. There just aren't very many appropriate children's books about World War I (at least that I found).

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Without really planning it, I managed to follow the last two books of February with one written by the same author (Gloria Houston also wrote My Great-Aunt Arizona) and illustrated by the same illustrator (Barbara Cooney wrote and illustrated Hattie and the Wild Waves). I don't think the kids noticed at all. I love this story. Again, Ms. Houston has retold a story from her family, this one of her grandmother. Ruthie's father is away at the war. Though he is on his way home after the Armistice, there's no money until he arrives. She and her mother fulfill their family's obligation to provide the town's Christmas tree. Then, her mother sacrifices her wedding dress and the gift she received from her husband to give Ruthie the perfect Christmas. It's a lovely story of family and frugality. It always makes me tear up. First Son liked pointing out the characters in the Christmas play (Mary, Joseph, the shepherds) and St. Nicholas, who visits the church service. Other than that, he was unimpressed. I guess beautiful dresses that make you look like an angel with wings and a lovely homemade doll just don't appeal much to young boys.

Country Crossing by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Ted Rand. This is a simple book describing the sights and sounds of a train crossing in the dusk of night. The two girls loved this book! Are all children, in every time, fascinated by the sight of a train?

Eleanor written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney could be a very depressing book. It's a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt (though it ends long before she marries) and is an inspiring tale of someone who knew how to love, even if she was not always loved, and the mentor who showed her how amazing she could be. Her childhood was quite awful, despite her wealth, which is an important lesson for children - things and comfort alone cannot make you happy. First Son, of course, was not as impressed as I had hoped, but sometimes these lessons sink in and appear later.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift, illustrated by Lynd Ward. This book was recommended by our friend Tiffany and I was so pleased when I read it! I have seen this little red lighthouse so many times, in New York, and First Son loved the story. The red lighthouse watches the great bridge grow and overshadow it, but learns it is still needed.

Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, tells the story of the formation of the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts, which covers her home town. I'm not sure how much First Son understood of the battle between the needs of different communities and sacrifices that some make.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Pinkney illustrated by Brian Pinkney, tells (of course) the life of Duke Ellington. The book itself has a jazzy feel to it and First Son enjoyed it beginning to end. (He's always more interested if I tell him ahead of time it's about a "real" person.) We followed up by listening to some of his music, but First Son was not as interested in it, once he heard a few songs.

Next month: The Great Depression. I am astounded at the number of wonderful books we have lined up.

1 comment:

  1. For what it's worth, the 26 Fairmount Ave. series by Tomie DePaola are really great beginning chapter books. Like several of his books, they are autobiographical, and the period covered includes the beginning of WWI. They do get into some difficult topics (a family friend of theirs dies in the war), but it is all presented from his perspective as a young child, and done well. I read them to Simon earlier this year and we enjoyed them (we did it mostly during Clover's naps).

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