Chapter Books

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

It is always rather dangerous when the Estate of a Favorite Author decides to approve a retelling, remake, or sequel to a Favorite Series.

So I was a bit apprehensive to read Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus (Dutton Children’s Books, 2009). With the Disney movie versions of Pooh, Tigger, and friends, I had reason to be wary. (Many of the modern story lines are simply horrible!)

I needn’t have worried. Author David Benedictus and illustrator Mark Burgess treated the Winnie-the-Pooh legacy much as Mr. Milne and Mr. Shepherd would have done: it featured a rather clever rhyming (although stuffed) bear, a timid and frequently blushing Piglet, a self-centered Eeyore, and all the other characters much as I fell in love with them in Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. The Christopher Robin who joins the friends during summer break is, likewise, English through-and-through, teaching his friends cricket, wearing his blue suspenders, and otherwise bringing imagination, silly confusion, and adventure back to the Hundred Acre Wood. (more…)

Friends of Liberty by Beatrice Gormley

Friends of Liberty by Beatrice Gormley is a chapter book about two girls living in Boston during the early years of the American Revolution. One of the girls (Kitty) is from a wealthy Tory family, and the other girl (Sally) is from a more modest family that supports the revolutionary leaders. Although the girls are friends with many interests in common, as the events unfold, Sally must decide what her priorities are and what she believes about the political situation. Further, Sally and Kitty’s friendship is tested as they encounter new struggles.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It seemed like a perfect girls book. I think I would have really liked it when I was young because of the issues of friendship and the difficulty of making decisions, especially having to choose between friends and family. It is hard to imagine the situation that Sally was in, but the book seems to bring it to life.

I had intended to give this book to my young son to read — he is a good reader and he enjoys learning about the American Revolution. I’ve decided not to at this time, mostly because the issues of conflicting loyalties is a difficult one for the young child to understand. Maybe in the future he’ll be able to weigh in with his opinion. For now, though, I would recommend it to 8-12 year old girls interested in historical fiction.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers for review consideration.


Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

When I was a child, I loved Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, but I could not, now, recall just why. When my baby girl was overtired and needed to calm down the other day, I saw this book on the shelf, pulled it off, and started reading it to her outloud. After a chapter or two, baby Strawberry was asleep (finally!) and I simply had to finish reading the book. Just as my memories served, it is a gentle, sweet, and love-filled book. I felt myself become emotional as I read it, because MacLachlan does such a lovely job of describing things: she shows us the world of Caleb and Anna.

Sarah, Plain and Tall is about a lonely family in the prairie that lacks a mother. Caleb and Anna are always trying to recall their mother, who died when Caleb was born. Their father no longer sings. They know he is lonely, and they miss the sweetness of a woman’s touch in their home. When their father writes an advertisement for a woman to come and marry him (essentially, a personal ad in a newspaper), Sarah, a plain and tall woman living within view of the sea, responds. She comes to their prairie to meet and court him, and Caleb and Anna find that they already love her dearly. Her influence is felt in their prairie home, and the children worry that her desire to be near the sea will send her away again.

As MacLachlan writes about the prairie contrasted with the sea of Sarah’s home, she writes passionately. There are many things to love, and I personally love how we, as readers, are drawn in to Sarah’s sadness as well as Caleb and Anna’s. We feel along with them all how poignantly they miss the pretty things: for Sarah, the sea; for Caleb and Anna, the joy that comes from singing as you work and gathering together at meals, and so forth. The prose in Sarah, Plain and Tall is simply gorgeous.

Although I began reading this book as a way to soothe my crying and tired daughter, I finished reading it once again in love with the emotional concepts it explores and the gorgeous illustrations the prose creates. Sarah, Plain and Tall is still a wonderful book I’d highly recommend to adult and child alike.