A Young Friend’s Bookshelf: May 2012

Prayers for All Seasons            

By Sophie Piper. Illustrated by Elena Temporin. Lion UK, 2011. 64 pages. $9.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Lisa Rand

As a mother, I have tried to teach my daughter how to center into silence and listen for God’s guidance.  I also have encouraged her to say words of gratitude, either inwardly or aloud.  Both of these efforts, however, can feel very abstract for a child who has not been immersed in vocal prayer.  When I read Sophie Piper’s books of prayers, I was pleased to find simple, heartfelt, and sometimes thought-provoking words that I could happily share with my daughter.

Courage, forgiveness, appreciating differences, and welcoming the stranger are some of the themes addressed in Peace on Earth.  In addition to Piper’s original writing, several Bible passages are included.  One of my favorite poems reads, “I am a pilgrim on a journey to a place where God is found; every step along the journey is upon God’s holy ground.”

The God that is praised in Prayers for All Seasons is a beneficent creator, making a natural world to bring us pleasure throughout the year.  The book also gives us glimpses of God as a source of comfort and an inspirer of good deeds.  I was glad for the selection of lovely yet simple table graces, for even if one says a mealtime blessing in silence, sometimes a few words to guide one’s thoughts can be welcome.  The last few seasonal poems are Jesus-centered, focusing on Christmas and Easter.  The beloved prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi that begins “Make me an instrument of your peace” finds a place in both volumes.  Throughout the books, illustrators Giulano Ferri and Elena Temporin do a beautiful job of creating warm, colorful scenes to accompany the prayers.

Both of these pretty books would make a special gift, and would prove a useful resource for worshipping with children.  They would also be a good addition for meetinghouse libraries, where they can be used to guide children’s worship or First-day school lessons.  In addition, the majority of the selections would be suitable for an interfaith service or event.  Parents who hope their children will develop a habit of prayer will be happy to have these books in their home.

Lisa Rand is a member of Unami (Pa.) Meeting.  She is the author of the blog Light to Read By. www.lighttoreadby.wordpress.com.

The Budding Gardener

Edited by Mary B.Rein. Gryphon House, 2011. 64 pages. $9.95/Paperback.

Reviewed by Michelle McAtee

In recent years, there has been a growing interest among Quakers in living simply and sustainably, and in eating healthy, locally grown food.  One method for introducing these values to our children is to introduce them at an early age to the joys of gardening.  The Budding Gardener is a useful tool for parents and First-day school teachers looking for fun projects.  Divided into chapters such as “Watch it Grow,” “Gardening Indoors and in Containers,” and “Theme Gardens,” the book provides a range of activities appropriate for families as well as classes.  Each project is described in step-by-step terms, with needed materials listed, and sometimes with recommendations for children’s books to accompany the project.  Projects such as “Make a Mini-Greenhouse,” “Fishbowl Jungle,” and “Spring in the Middle of Winter” describe activities that can be started in a class, often in reused containers, and taken home.  Many projects are appropriate for those living in apartments, and for growing plants during winter.  Other projects, such as “Grow Your Initials” and “All-White Garden,” require at least a small yard and some ongoing maintenance.  The Budding Gardener is a good resource for parents and teachers looking for ways to garden with children ages three to eight.

Michelle McAtee is a member of Nashville (TN) Meeting.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

By Katherine Paterson. Illustrated by Pamela Dalton. Chronicle Books, 2011. 36 pages. $17.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Jim Foritano

Brother Sun, Sister Moon is timely in an era in which our demands on limited resources has, according to scientists, imperiled not only our own lives but the life of the planet.  It may be time to share as we are able, to stretch ourselves towards St. Francis’s spirit of celebration in company with all nature.  And what better way to join in this celebration of our interconnectedness than with Pamela Dalton’s cut-paper illustrations.   Dalton works in the technique of scherenschnitte, illustrations that are cut from one continuous sheet of paper. The technique makes her willow leaves and butterfly wings seem to dance on the page. With their animation and interior spaces, they suggest the patterns of interdependence in nature that, more and more, modern science has been showing us.

Spare but not meager, Katherine Paterson’s text re-imagines St. Francis’s thirteenth century song to creation and speaks to our part in honoring and preserving the nurturing of all creation.  St. Francis’s contemporaries were very familiar with cultivation and the harvest, with the flora and fauna of their world, as we are not.  But then, as now, we are all apt to disregard nature’s bounty and beauty.  St. Francis mentions forgiveness and peace, whereas Paterson uses the words “hatred and war.”  This reader feels that flipping the cloth of St. Francis’s phrase to reveal its starker opposite is not hyperbole, but crucially germane to our greater ability today to wreak destruction.    Repeated readings of this book in company with family and friends will surely heighten our enjoyment of the enduring truths in St. Francis’s Canticle of the Creatures.

Jim Foritano attends Cambridge (Mass.) Meeting.

One Love

By Cedella Marley. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Chronicle Books, 2011. 32 pages. $16.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Vickie LeCroy

Cedella Marley adopted the words from her father Bob Marley’s song One Love to create a children’s book with the same title.  The illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton tell the story of a diverse group of people who get together to clean up a vacant lot.  They plan and create One Love Park.  The colorful illustrations bring to mind several topics, including cooperation, community building, hope, love, and peace.  Three to six year old children would enjoy this book and it would also be a great addition to a meeting’s library.

Vickie LeCroy is a member of the Cincinnati (OH) Meeting.

The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story about Suffrage

By Iris Van Rybach and Pegi Deitz Shea. Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, 2010. 32 pages. $16.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Alison James

Taxation without representation gets personal when the town leaders levy a tax on single female landowners.  Two sisters, Abby and Julia Smith, took Glastonbury, Connecticut, to task for this unfair law, and the town responded by taking custody of their Alderney cows.  The Taxing Case of the Cows makes a complicated political situation personal, humorous, and concrete.  The illustrations by Caldecott-award winning artist Emily Arnold McCully match the text in detail, humor, and historical accuracy.

Alison James is a member of South Starksboro (VT) Meeting.

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families

By Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. Lee and Low Books, 2011. 40 pages. $19.95/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Tom and Sandy Farley

The mangrove tree is an unusual plant.  It has adapted to growing with its roots in salt water.  Mangroves offer solutions to many problems faced by arid communities in equatorial seacoast regions.  The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families tells the story of the planting of mangrove trees on the Red Sea shores of Eritrea using three parallel storylines.

The first telling is a poem in the add-on, “This is the house that Jack built” style printed down the left margin.  It is amazing how many aspects of village life are enhanced by the mangrove trees.  The background information, at about a fourth grade reading level, fills out the true story of biologist Gordon Sato’s idea to enrich a community by planting mangrove trees.  This story runs down the right margin.

In the middle, the story is told through colorful collage pictures by Susan Roth that seem to dance off the page.  The afterword is a photo journal of the tree planting project, retelling the story a fourth time and directing older readers to Sato’s Manzanar Project website.  Dr. Gordon Sato named the project Manzanar after the desert relocation camp where his family was interned during World War II.  There, as a teenager, he learned how to coax crops from dry lands.

We can picture this story being used in its various levels of appeal in a multi-age First-day school.  It would make a fine companion piece to Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola.  If you want to learn more about mangrove trees and their propagation in a child-friendly form, we suggest The Sea, the Storm and the Mangrove Tangle by Lynne Cherry.

Tom and Sandy Farley are members of Palo Alto (CA) Meeting.  They are the primary authors and illustrators of Earthcare for Children.

My Heart Will Not Sit Down

By Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Ann Tanksley. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012. 40 pages. $17.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Dee Cameron

When Kedi’s American teacher describes the effects of the Depression in his home city of New York, the young girl in Cameroon has a hard time imagining the diverse, teeming city.  Parents without work and children without food are easier to understand, and the picture of their suffering takes such hold that her “heart will not sit down.”  Despite the scarcity of money, the adults of her village catch her empathy, and a small collection is taken up and sent to people they have never seen.

This book reminded me of Carmen Agra Deedy’s 14 Cows for America, in which the September 11th attack prompts a Maasai group to reach out to the United States.  Both books include lengthy afterwords explaining their stories’ origins in real life and both are elegantly illustrated.  If two can be said to presage a trend, perhaps we will see more books that illustrate the reciprocity of fellow feeling and help.

Dee Cameron is a member of El Paso (Tex.) Meeting.

Where Do You Stay?

By Andrea Cheng. Boyds Mills Press, 2011. 136 pages. $17.95/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Lucinda Hathaway

This is a novel for middle school readers (ages 10-12).  As an  adult, I thought  about how a middle school child would feel and think while reading this book.  I think a child would relate to Jerome, the main character, as he was a likeable boy with a well-developed personality and thought process.

The book deals with change.  After his mother’s death, Jerome is sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and two cousins.    Some children would read about Jerome’s mother and immediately begin to wonder what would happen to them if their parent or parents should die.  Death is a change that children of this age can and must begin to understand.  The story provides ample opportunities for discussion in a classroom, at home, or in a library book group.

Adjacent to  Jerome’s new home is an abandoned mansion and carriage house.  A homeless man, Mr. Willie, lives in the carriage house and works for his neighbors using a barter system.  He and Jerome become good friends.  They have much in common as they both are lonely and both are musicians.  Jerome had to leave his piano behind after his mother’s death, and he tries to teach his younger cousin to play the piano by making a paper keyboard.  He longs for his piano and hopes to have one of his own some day.  Mr. Willie tells Jerome that there had been a wonderful white piano in the mansion that he had played as a boy while his mother worked in the house.  Jerome makes it his mission to find that piano.

Jerome is adopted by his new family.  Another big change!  He has to learn to live with his two cousins.  His younger cousin loves him and follows him around.  His older cousin is on his way to trouble and wants nothing to do with him.  More change!  He has to attend a new school, make new friends, and get used to a new neighborhood.  He adjusts to all of these with some difficulty.

The book is set in Cincinnati, but it could be any American city.  It discusses “white flight,” civil rights, and Rosa Parks, and I wonder whether today’s ten year olds can relate to these historical issues.  The characters seem real, however, and the book provides many opportunities for discussing social problems like homelessness.  With many problems explored and solved, the book ends on a high note and the piano finds Jerome.  All in all a good read for a thoughtful child.

Lucinda Hathaway is a member of Sarasota (Fla.) Meeting and the author of Takashi’s Voyage.

The Underground Railroad Adventure of Allen Jay, Antislavery Activist

By Marlene Targ Brill. Illustrated by Ted Hammond and Richard Pimentel Carbajal. Graphic Universe, 2011. 32 pages. $8.95/Paperback.

Reviewed by David Austin

Like many of you I’ll bet, I grew up on comic books.  SpidermanIron Man, even Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos were among my favorites.  As an adult, I have read and enjoyed a few more adult variations of the genre, now called graphic literature.  My middle school students, especially the reluctant readers, love this stuff, and perhaps that is the intention behind Lerner Publishing’s Graphic Universe series, “History’s Kid Heroes,” which  produced this Underground Railroad adventure.

As a history teacher, I welcome the chance to use material like this in my classes, to be able to teach important episodes from history through the eyes of young people from the past in a format that will appeal to 21st century readers.  In that way, Marlene Targ Brill succeeds here.  This slim volume has a brief introduction to provide historical context for the story to follow, including a (too brief, as in three sentences) description of Quakers, then plunges us into the story of young Allen, whose Ohio family is enlisted to help a runaway slave as he tries to head north to Canada.

At first, Allen is a somewhat reluctant “activist” who has to muster no small amount of courage to carry out his dangerous mission.  He questions his own abilities and is somewhat hesitant to do some of the things that are necessary to save Henry, the runaway (such as having to handle a rifle, which he says he “can’t” do because of his pacifist beliefs). These elements add a bit of depth to the story, which really cannot be fleshed out very thoroughly in such a limited amount of space.

The book has an afterword that tells us what happened to the real Allen Jay later in his life, and also a bit more about the history of the Underground Railroad.  The publisher has included a list of references for readers who want to explore the issues presented in the text, but sadly, it includes no links to any information about Quakers.  The artwork is simple and bright, adding to the appeal of this book.

My only real quibble—again this is the history teacher in me talking—is with the dialogue, which fluctuates between attempting to sound “1842-ish” and modern dialect.  It also uses the Quaker forms of thee and thou inconsistently. This plain speech would have been common during this time period in conversations among Friends, but author Brill leaves us with a couple anachronistic clunkers, such as, “I have a snack for thee.”  In addition, Henry at times sounds a bit too much like the author’s attempt at echoing Jim from Huckleberry Finn, and at other times he sounds like a character from a modern-day television drama.  Perhaps Brill could have more accurately portrayed the language of the time by referring to Friends’ journals from the time period.  However, that might have made the reading tougher for the intended audience.

Overall, though, I admire the author’s effort in bringing this story to life.  It’s nice to see a title directed at young adult readers that focuses on young people being part of history in nonviolent ways.  Some of the other titles in this series look to have potential, also, such as the one that deals with two survivors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  Another graphic title that young Friends might enjoy is William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania by Ryan Jacobson and published by Capstone Press.  It is surprisingly detailed, well researched, readable, and has excellent supplemental resources.

David Austin is a member of Haddonfield (NJ) meeting.  He teaches seventh grade social studies.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World

By Penny Colman. Henry Holt, 2011. 272 pages. $18.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Gwen Gosney Erickson

Penny Colman presents an accessible book on the lifelong friendship and activist partnership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  With a target audience of 12 and up, the style is definitely one for a young adult audience.  It begins with the childhood experiences of these two remarkable women.  The book is divided into four parts reflecting the evolving phases of a many-decade-long friendship and presents each woman’s life equally on her own terms and often in her own words.

It is a readable and compelling story, but there are some weaknesses in how some information is presented.  For example, it implies that the Hicksite/Orthodox split of 1827 was based primarily on anti-slavery beliefs and there are other misleading references to Quaker practices.  Advanced readers wishing to know more about Quaker women’s role in nineteenth century reform and suffrage efforts can learn more regarding Susan B. Anthony’s Quaker connections in Margaret Hope Bacon’s Mothers of Feminism: The Story of Quaker Women in America.

As a story about an impressive friendship based upon a common desire for social justice, the book is a good addition for family libraries.  It does not accurately convey enough of Susan B. Anthony’s ties to Friends for it to be included on the Quaker history shelf.  However, it does provide a compelling narrative of women’s rights and nineteenth century social change.

Gwen Gosney Erickson is the Archivist and Librarian of the Friends Historical Collection at Guilford College.  She is a member of Friendship Meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

The Year We Were Famous

By Carole Estby Dagg. Clarion, 2011. 256 pages. $16.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Emmy Gay

The Year We Were Famous is a historical novel about two women who walk from Washington State to New York City in 1896.  It is a story you will remember through laughter and tears.  The two women, mother Helga and daughter Clara, decide to walk across the country to raise enough money to save the family farm.  It is based on a true story, as the author’s great aunt and great-grandmother took a similar journey.

Through Helga and daughter Clara’s adventures, the reader gets a look at the life and expectations of women in the 1890’s.  We learn about the politics of the time, the suffragette movement, transportation, and the topography of the country.  The story revolves around the mother-daughter relationship and teen readers will relate to the tensions between mother and daughter and the search for identity and independence.  Readers of The Year We Were Famous might be impressed by Clara’s perseverance and may decide they are also capable of doing something extraordinary.

Historical fiction is my favorite genre.  For a book to be successful, historical fiction must be good history and good literature.  The history has to be accurate and the story engaging.  Dagg accomplishes both of these goals.  She tells a story that is humorous and touching while informing the reader about the historical period.

This is Dagg’s first novel.  Her writing style is easy and informative.  Her images are concise and vivid.  We see the pre-automobile countryside one step at a time.  We feel the strength, courage, and resourcefulness of these two determined women.  I enjoyed every step taken in this book—all eight million from Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City.  This book is advertised for children 12 and up, although my nine year old enjoyed the story very much.

Emmy Gay is a member of Brooklyn (NY) Meeting.

Words in the Dust

By Trent Reedy. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011. 272 pages. $17.99/Hardcover.

Reviewed by Meagan Healy

This book has incredibly detailed descriptions of a young girl’s perspective on life and new beginnings in Afghanistan.  The main character Zulaikha worries about getting along with her father’s second wife, neighborhood bullies, and the care of her young brothers.  Will she ever be pretty enough to be married, she wonders? She does not think so, despite her sister’s support and love.  Growing up seems to be getting tougher and more challenging.  Yet despite disappointments, risks, and sadness, Zulaikha does not give up.  Zulaikha is taught traditions and lives by them.  But when a chance for a new future comes into view, will she stay with the old ways or take a chance for something better?

The author is a former American soldier who went to Afghanistan angry at extremists and their destruction against the United States.  His work on a Provincial Reconstruction Team, a more peaceful mission, changed his perspective.  His novel was inspired by the Afghan people as well as The Bridge to Terabitha by Katherine Paterson.  Katherine Paterson wrote the introduction to his book.

This book would work well for a First-day school class (age 11 and up), a Young Friends discussion, or even for adult education or a book club.  It could facilitate discussions of childhoods in Afghanistan and in the US, women’s roles in both countries, and even how a peaceful mission can affect a soldier formerly influenced by hate.  Lastly, it could lead to discussions of what Friends should do when they encounter any of these situations in their lives.  Ten percent of the proceeds from this book goes to a woman’s charity called “Women For Afghan Women,” an organization that advocates for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Meagan Healy attended Orange Grove Meeting (CA), Friends Meeting of Washington, DC, and Patapsco Meeting (Md.).  She also co-taught First-day school at Friends Meeting and Patapsco Meeting.  She currently finds peace in mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.

Better than You

By Trudy Ludwig. Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. Alfred Knopf, 2011, 32 pages, $15.99/hardcover.

Reviewed by Tom and Sandy Farley

Better than You is a picture book about arrogance.  Tyler’s friend, Jake, always one-ups Tyler and belittles his accomplishments.  Tyler feels low about this.  His uncle helps him see it as Jake’s problem as much as his.  Tyler notices that Jake’s boasting has the same negative effect on others.

The story ends with Tyler finding Jake playing with a new boy, Niko.  Tyler joins them and likes Niko’s way of sharing his skills and giving and accepting compliments.  Niko prefers Tyler’s attitude to Jake’s and becomes Tyler’s friend.  The message is clear: Jake’s arrogance costs him friendships.

Michele Borba’s introduction and Trudy Ludwig’s endnote about “Bragging and Boasting” along with “Questions for Discussion” and a list of resource books for adults make this book a useful tool in the hands of wise parents, teachers, and counselors.

To turn this book into a First-day school lesson for ages 5-12, you could start with a few rounds of Human Variety Line-up.  This is an AVP game where everyone lines up by a given criteria such as height, age, month of birthday, length of hair, number of buttons, skill level in a certain area, etc.  After several line-ups, talk about what is being valued, what we can take reasonable pride in, and what is accidental or beyond our control.  At the end of the game, you might ask if any line-up showed whom God loved more.

Then read the book aloud, showing the pictures.  Use the queries at the end of the book or your own, to explore arrogance and pride.  Can we think of times when we acted like Jake, as well as times when we have been in Tyler’s position or Niko’s?  Does denying a compliment say the giver wasn’t telling the truth?  Children will get it.

If you like Better than You, you will probably like Trudy Ludwig’s other books about aspects of friendships and bullying: Too Perfect, Just Kidding, Sorry, Trouble Talk, and My Secret Bully.  For a more comprehensive child-friendly anti-bullying book, see her Confessions of a Former Bully.  All offer great examples of children growing in self-awareness and kindly adults having a good influence in children’s lives.

Previous Book Next Book

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on Friendsjournal.org may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.