Newbery Books: 1930

It’s been a few weeks, but I am back to my Newbery books.  We just returned from a great two week vacation from Maine and Oklahoma.  We are happy to be home, but it was a really fun trip.

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I actually finished reading all of the 1930 books before we left, so I am feeling a little disconnected from them.  However, I am looking back through them again and am reminded of how much I really enjoyed some of them.

There were six Honor Books chosen in 1930 and of course the one Medal winner. I wrote about Little Blacknose in a separate post.  It was definitely worth reading.

Pran of Albania was another Honor book, and it was so good.  It is historical fiction about a girl living in Albania, and it takes place in the early 19th century.  l loved learning a little about Albanian culture at this time.  For example, the women were always knitting or spinning as they walked, and I loved how this was incorporated into the story. During part of the story, Pran and her family are forced to flee their homes and live as refugees for awhile.  I felt like what I was reading happening to them in the 1800s would easily apply to how our many modern refugees must feel, and I found this part of the story so compelling.  This book is not easy to obtain, and I think that’s too bad.  I have it on my “to-do” list to try to see if I can help make it available on Project Gutenberg if it is eligible.  I highly recommend this book.

I also really enjoyed The Jumping-Off Place.  It’s about siblings who lost their parents and then they also lose the uncle who was raising them.  The uncle had begun to establish a homestead in the Dakotas, and so the children (two are teenagers) decide to homestead it themselves.  This is an exciting book, and I love the strong female character who is so kind and brave.  I was happy to see that this book is available on Amazon even in Kindle format.  I was able to recommend it to my grandmother with whom I try to share my favorite Newbery books.

Vaino: A Boy of New Finland was also very interesting.  One thing I love about these different books is the opportunity to learn just a little about different cultures and parts of the world.  The story is about a little boy and his family who are involved in the Finnish Civil War in 1917.  A second important part of the story is the mother’s telling of stories which are old Finnish legends.  So I learned a little about the Finnish Civil War and about Finnish legends.  I think this book is definitely worth reading.

I knew almost nothing about Madame Roland (Marie-Jeanne Roland) who was an influential figure in the French Revolution, and so I found the next Honor book, A Daughter of the Seine to be very interesting.  It is a biography of Roland’s life.  I learned a lot about her and the French Revolution.  However, there are sections of political discussions that I had to kind of plow through, and I can’t imagine many children finding this too interesting.  Overall though I was very glad to read it.

Then there was The Tangle-Coated Horse.  This book is a collection of Irish legends. I gave this book a try, but I have just read too many legends and tales at this point, and they are all starting to run together to me.  This book was reviewed positively, and I’d like to come back to it sometime, but for now I am pretty weary of tales.

And finally, we have the Newbery Medal winner for 1930:  Hitty: Her First Hundred Years.  This book is told from the perspective of a doll.  The story of Hitty begins when she is carved from mountain ash (which is supposed to have magical properties).  Her first owner – Phoebe – is a little girl living in Maine, and it begins in the early 1800s. She becomes separated and is then reunited with her owner Phoebe several times (I got a little irritated with that.  Phoebe missed her so much but then would lose her again).  Her travels take her to Baton Rouge, Boston and the South Pacific.  She spends time with a snake-charmer and ends up in an antique shop.  It’s an interesting book, but I did not find it as compelling as Pran of Albania or The Jumping-Off Place.  I really came to care about Pran and the siblings in The Jumping-Off Place, and while I was not indifferent to Hitty, I just wasn’t drawn into the story as much.  However, a child reading this book might feel quite differently about a doll who comes to life and has such great adventures!

Whew!  1930 was a pretty big year and included (at least for me) some very memorable books.

Newbery Honor 1930: Little Blacknose

This book surprised me.  Before I started reading I wondered who was “Little Blacknose”?  Turns out, Little Blacknose was not a who but a what.  This book is told from the perspective of a steam locomotive.  He was known as the Dewitt Clinton (a former of governor of New York), and he was the first steam locomotive to run in the state of the New York.

Reading a story from the perspective of a train was pretty interesting.

“Little Blacknose really loved wood best, good pitch pine, for coal was hard to chew.. Delishshshshshsh-shious!     Delishshshshshsh-shious!” he murmured.


“Free!  Free! Free!” he thought to himself.  “I shall run, as the children do.  I shall roll my wheels round and round!.  I shall go like the wind”

Despite the fact that it’s told from the perspective of a talking train, I felt like I learned a lot about the history of trains in the United States.  The book follows the “life” of the train and ends with his retirement in the Henry Ford museum.

Once again, the illustrations were so interesting.


The top of each page was illustrated with a row of trains.


I was surprised by this book, and I enjoyed it very much!



Newbery Honor 1929: Whew I am done!

It took me awhile to get through 1929.  Some of these books were great.  Some of them were not.

I could not get into Tod of the Fens and Clearing WeatherTod of the Fens is supposed to be a farcical type story, and I could see where there was humor in it, but I got too bogged down in language and what I thought was not a great pace.  I skimmed it.

I wasn’t crazy about Clearing Weather either.  In a nutshell this book is about building a ship and sailing it to Jamaica.  However there’s nothing remotely “in a nutshell” about this long-winded book.  People of color do not fare well in this book which I guess is not surprising given the time in which it takes place and the time in which it is written. To put it briefly, every page I read in this book just made me tired, and I gave myself permission to put it aside (permanently).

I wrote about The PIgtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo in another post.  The best thing about this book (for me) was the amazing illustrations.  I also wrote about Millions of Cats and The Boy Who Was.  These were both excellent books.

Another book I really liked was Runaway Papoose. This book was just delightful.  Nah-Tee, the main character, is a Native American girl who lives in a pueblo in the Southwest.  I like how Grace Moon writes.  For example, she describes riding through the loneliness of the desert:  “This was a jolly loneliness – it was a sparkly daytime loneliness, and there wasn’t a fear thought hiding away anywhere.  Somehow, there was a smile in everything.” Nah-tee and Moyo are two heroic children who work together to complete their quest.  There is adventure, humor, and great love in this story.  This is one of my favorites so far (I think I say this a lot!).

And finally – the Winner!

The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric P. Kelly, is an exciting book that takes place in the 1400s in Krakow Poland.  It’s a very fun mystery and adventure story.  I always love a mystery with a good story behind it.  Alchemy is an important part of the story which was fun too.  I really liked this one.


I am glad to put 1929 behind me.  I try not to apply my 2016 perspective to the literature of the 1920s, but these books seem inconsistent.  There are some books that I can not imagine a child ever slogging through, and then there are some books that are wonderful and a delight to read.  It will be interesting to see what the 1930s bring!


Newbery Honor 1929: The Boy Who Was

When I started reading The Boy Who Was, I didn’t think that I was going to like it much. First, I saw that it was going to be another book of short stories.  Second, the book began with stories about the Sirens and Odysseus.  I love Greek mythology, but I have read these stories several times now so I wasn’t too excited about more Greek mythology.

So I began the book with the attitude that I was probably going to be doing some skimming.  Instead, I soon realized that the story was actually about a little Italian goat-herder boy named Nino.  He loved to sit by the seashore and listen to the Sirens sing (the songs did not affect him quite like they did the sailors on the ships!).  One day the Sirens became very distraught when Odysseus outsmarted them by putting wax in the ears of his sailors and strapping himself to the ship.  The Siren sisters felt like failures because their songs didn’t end up in Odysseus wrecking his ship so they threw themselves off a cliff.  Before they did so though, one of the sisters gave Nino eternal life.

The rest of the stories take place during different time periods in Italy.  At least a hundred years pass between almost every story.  Nino turns out to be a quiet wonderful hero.  Once I realized what this book was really about, I no longer wanted to skim.  It has turned out to be one of my favorites.  Some of Nino’s adventures include being present at Pompeii (when Mt. Vesuvius erupts!), and he also has an encounter with Redbeard.

Once again, there are some beautiful illustrations. Here’s Redbeard:


In the final story, Nino joins a group of bandits who kidnap a very grumpy unkind Prince.  The Prince is miserably overweight and unhappy.  This tale could have served as inspiration for The Biggest Loser (with the exception of the kidnapping part!). The bandits put the prince on a diet and exercise regime and change his life.  In the end, they part as good friends.  It’s a great story.

Here is the unhappy overweight grumpy prince:

Boywhowas1I am learning that I tend to want to give up on a book too quickly.   Sometimes it takes a little while to appreciate what a real gem a book can be.  This book was definitely a gem.



Newbery 1929: The Pigtails of Ah Lee Ben Loo and Millions of Cats

I am making my way through the 1929 Newbery books.  In 1929, six Newbery honor books were chosen plus the Medal winner.

Millions of Cats was the first picture book that I encountered as a Newbery Honor.  This is such a nice story.


It is about a couple who want to adopt a cat, but who end up with literally millions of cats.  The story focuses on how they acquired the cats and then how they were able to end up with only one cat.  It’s a fun story.  I enjoyed the absolute hyperbole of the idea of bringing home that many cats.

In the end, the sweet couple has a wonderful cat addition to their little family.


I guess that was a spoiler, but it’s an inevitable ending I think!  This is a book I’d love to read with a young class.  The illustrations of the millions of cats and how much they ate and drank would be a lot of fun to share with young children.

The other book I’ve read (kinda) is The Pigtails of Ah Lee Ben Loo.  This book is full of silly almost nursery type rhymes and tales.  I really didn’t get into it all that much and ended up skimming through it.  It might be a good one to read in small chunks before bedtime, but I really didn’t find the stories incredibly engaging.

What I did find engaging about the book however, and what made it definitely worth looking at were the silhouette illustrations.


I spent a lot of time looking at the illustrations which were filled with energy and humor.

pigtails2I love the dairymaid in the picture above!

Newbery Honor 1928: The Wonder Smith and Downright Dencey

The two Honor books for 1928 were The Wonder Smith and His Son
by Ella Young and Downright Dencey by Caroline Dale Snedeker.

The Wonder Smith is a book of Irish folklore.  It tells the tales of Gubbaun Saor the legendary smith.  It is told in the style of Celtic lore, and the language can be a little hard to follow at times.  The language is beautiful though, and there is humor and wisdom to be found in the stories.  My favorite parts are the Irish blessings which can be found throughout the story: “May my blessing run before you.  May my blessing guard you on the right hand and on the left.  May my blessing follow you as your shadow follows.”

The second Honor book of 1928 was Downright Dencey.  This was my favorite book yet of all the Newbery books I have read since I started.  Now I may be a little biased.  When I was little, I loved books about girls like Laura Ingalls, Caddie Woodlawn, and Janey Moffat (The Middle Moffat).  I loved the historical females and the more modern ones like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden as well.  There was another book I read about a girl where they spoke using the Quaker thee and thou that I also loved, but I can’t for the life of me remember the title.

So Downright Dencey is a historical fiction story about a Quaker girl who lived on Nantucket Island in the early 1800s.  Whaling was one of the principle occupations, and the men such as Dencey’s father often left for up to four years on their expeditions.  I really liked the Quaker language and customs, and I loved the spirited kind Dencey and the relationship she develops with Jetsam (who is the difficult wild child being raised by the town outcast “Injun Jill”).

This is a book that I would have loved to have read as a kid.  I really enjoyed it.

Newbery Medal 1928: Gay-Neck

The Newbery winner for 1928 was Gay-Neck, The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji .  This was a beautifully written book about a boy and his pigeon.  I very much liked the relationship between the boy and the bird, but much of the book consists of Gay-Neck flying off, getting into trouble, and then narrowly escaping his prey.   I got a little tired of this repetition.  Gay-Neck perhaps grows weary of it too because he asks:  “Tell me this.  Why is there so much killing and inflicting of pain by birds and beasts on one another?  I don’t think all of you men hurt each other.  Do you?  But birds and beasts do.  All that makes me so sad.”

But Gay-Neck is brave, and he is a treasured member of the boy’s family.  Later he serves as a messenger pigeon in the war.  His service, which included a serious injury, results in him suffering from post traumatic stress disorder:

“Every time I hopped up in the air, my ears, I know not how were filled with terrible noises of guns, and my eyes saw nothing but flaming bullets.  I was so frightened that I would dash immediately to the ground.  You may say that I was hearing imaginary guns and seeing imaginary walls of bullets: maybe, but their effect on me was the same as that of real ones.  My wings were paralysed, my entrails frozen with terror”.

He is so damaged from the effects of war that he refuses to fly.  The boy tries to help him want to fly again, and this leads to Gay-Neck spending  time with a wise lama. I like the meditation that the lama shares with Gay-Neck.  He takes Gay-Neck into his hands and says:

“May the north wind bring healing unto you, May the south wind bring healing unto you, May the winds of the east and west pour healing into you.  Fear flee from you, Hate flees from you, And suspicion flees from you.  Courage like a rushing tide gallops through you; Peace possesses your entire being, And serenity and strength have become your two wings.  In your eyes shine courage; Power and prowess dwell in your heart!

You are healed, You are healed,  You are healed!   Peace,    peace,   peace.”

This was certainly not a book that I would have delved into on my own.  I will say this again and again I am sure, but this is the beauty of a reading “quest” like this.  I read somewhere that author’s message throughout the book was that man and beast are brothers, and I can definitely agree with that.  It was an exposure to another culture which I always think is a positive.

And, I always like seeing the different types of illustrations in each book that I read.