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.