They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson

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My Caldecott challenge: Although these Caldecott winner and honor books are not, for the most part, books I’ve read aloud to my son, I still found them interesting. A few I had strong negative opinions of; they show that even books that earned the Caldecott award do become dated!

I’m rather conflicted about this Caldecott Winner from 1941 next book. They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson was not an enjoyable book to read. The illustrations were okay: strong, full-page, black-and-white pen and ink sketches. They were certainly better than my drawing talents, but nothing to be excited about in this day of full-color books.

To the point, the story of the author’s ancestors is, I think, pretty boring, with racist undertones. In the language of the day (1940s), Lawson tells of the “colored” boys (slaves) his father played with during his childhood in the South before he fought the Yankees in the Civil War, as well as the “tame Indians” that bothered his mother outside her Minnesota home.

Yes, he’s telling history; we shouldn’t censor history from our children. This book, as an award winner in the year it was published, tells us of the history and the attitudes still prevalent in the (relatively late years) of the 1940s. But this book is so boring and so inappropriately dated that it doesn’t seem to be the best book for teaching history to children in this day and age.

True, it shows that even ordinary people did something good for their country, but since it is not a story of my ancestors, I have a hard time caring about his story. Not a recommended Caldecott book.

Reviewed on November 15, 2010

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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