Book Reviews, Christmas, Mamaishness, Teacherishness, Vintage

Vintage Books for Christmas

We’ve been busy, but I haven’t been blogging. Surprised? I doubt it. We’ve discovered some vintage gems this Advent, so I’ll share a few of those quickly.

vintage christmas book, kate seredy bookOne day, I’ll write you a virtual dissertation on Kate Seredy, and why her books deserve a lot more modern attention than they get. In the meantime, rejoice that A Tree for Peter (IndieBound/Amazon) was just republished, and that The Chestry Oak will be returning soon. A Tree for Peter made me cry (not surprising), but it also made me think. It’s the story of a young boy growing up in a shantytown, and a mysterious stranger who changes not only Peter’s life, but also the lives of everyone Peter knows, with a few simple gifts. The shantytown is transformed, as are the hearts of its residents, largely through the not-so-magical-magic of feeling empowered and purposeful in their daily lives. There is also a wraparound story to the overall book that highlights the ability of young children to influence others through their actions. I will grant you that the plot is a little far-fetched, but I think the sheer inspiration of it overcomes that.

A few notes for the modern reader: Peter has a limp, and is called “lame” throughout the book. You’ll want to think about that ahead of time, and either discuss it in advance with your children or use a different word to describe how he has difficulty walking. There is also one reference to “wild Indians,” and once again you’ll want to decide how to handle that before you get to it. For a book of this vintage (1941), neither of those things is surprising, but they do require some forethought before reading this book in a classroom, especially.

vintage winter book, ice skating book

A Day on Skates, which is actually set after Christmas, is a new favorite at our house for Bethany (5). (IndieBound/Amazon) She asked me to read it again as soon as we’d finished it. It’s written and illustrated in a format that is very rare in modern publishing: it’s horizontal, with sporadic black and white illustrations on most spreads, with a few full page color plates. It’s a great intermediate step for kids who are pretty good at listening to picture books, and aren’t always great at following a story in a novel. They have to do some work to visualize the story, but there are some helpful illustrations just when they need them. This is especially handy for children like mine, who have zero frame of reference for things like ice, snow, and skating. I imagine children in North Dakota would need less help with this.

The premise of A Day on Skates is that a class of Dutch children are going on a full-day picnic that includes miles and miles of skating. It’s a huge undertaking, and plenty of adventures occur. (Spoiler alert: one of the main characters falls through the ice, the whole class visits a stranger’s farm for help (and pancakes), a group of boys gets locked in a church tower, and it begins to look like the group will not have the stamina to make it home, until they are rescued by a passing sleigh.) While I’m sure it’s written with a rose-colored pen, this book is also an interesting look at how people used to handle adversity, back before helicopter parenting was a thing.

Modern reader notes, again: There are numerous references to things/activities being “for girls” and “for boys,” in ways that irked me, personally. As we encountered these, the girls and I just talked through them, and I don’t think that impeded the flow of the story. There’s also a bit towards the end where a group of boys decide to be explorers, like Columbus, and I did a wretched hatchet job of changing some wording to more accurately reflect Columbus – landing, rather than discovering, for instance. I entirely skipped one paragraph referring to “red Indians,” because I had not pre-read to know that I’d need to do some explaining before we started. With older readers, I’d use this as a teaching opportunity to discuss prejudice and how it can show up in unlikely places.

christmas books, vintage rudolph book

My friends at Bound to Be Read had this little winner sitting in the window on Black Friday. Initially, I thought to save it for Christmas Eve, but then I just loved it too much to wait. This is the 75th anniversary reprinting of the original Rudolph story from Montgomery Ward. It’s delightful. The illustrations are vintage, and the language in the poem is pretty great. While ultimately this is a story about bullying (reindeer are cruel, it turns out), it’s pretty exciting to see how Rudolph really does help Santa, even in old-school four color illustrations. I think we’ve all been missing out, relying solely on the infamous Rudolph TV special for our reindeer knowledge, even if Rudolph was just a marketing gimmick. (IndieBound/Amazon)

In case I don’t get back here beforehand, I hope y’all have a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it), and a great start to 2015. Thanks for reading!

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