April 29, 2011
Here's an oldie but a goodie. I found a practically pristine copy on my shelves and decided I'd better read it before weeding. Turns out I'll keep it and recommend it to a few kids to see if they get as much out of it as I did. This will be fore those who love outdoorsy girls and historical fiction. Those who love Charlotte's Web and the Little House books will love this. It wasn't historical fiction when it was written back in 1938, but now it sure is.
It has great names. Garnet, Citronella, etc. It has great exclamations: "Land!"
It's not plot heavy, but character and place rich. A small town farm girl in the 30s is worried about the drought affecting the farm. She finds a shiny silver thimble. Rains come, an interesting boy joins the farm, she briefly runs away and has an adventure. A pig she raised wins a prize at a local fair. She decides this will always be remembered as "the thimble summer."
You get a good feel for the writing in the first chapter. It begins with a great description of the hot, dry weather, still as a drum. The tension and worry of this state of affairs for the farm family is palpable, the the release comes as a thunderstorm rolls in, banging the like a drum and releasing all the tension.
Garnet is drawn as a pretty, wispy blonde 12-year old but is described as someone who prefers to be barefoot and loves running and playing in the mud and has a good old time. The weird thing is that she's always referring to her friend Citronella as "fat" but she's drawn as just not as wispy as Garnet. I'd think it was a problem of interpretation of the illustrator if the author wasn't the illustrator herself and was actually an illustrator before she was an author.
But that's a minor quibble. This is a well written book. I'll definitely be trying to breathe back some life into it as far as my own collection goes.
Oh, Travis is making his own covers for past Newbery winners and came up with this for Thimble Summer. I think I'd go more for a focus on the thimble or the bare feet than the pig, but what do I know?