Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Little Maid Series, by Alice Turner Curtis

It's not often that a series of books for young adolescent girls makes it off the ground. Very few reach the level of success achieved by Nancy Drew and the American Girl books. As part of a project, I've been devouring an early historical fiction series for girls aged 7 to 12 - the Little Maid books.

First published in the 1910s, the Little Maid series is a bit of an anomaly, to me. The publishing boom of girls series fiction novels came years after Alice Turner Curtis's books dealing with young girls living during the American Revolution. Unlike the collectible books of Betsy Tacy, the Bobbsey Twins, or Cherry Ames, these stories have fallen out of the public eye. Tracking them down was a challenge in and of itself.

I'm currently in possession of A Little Maid of Province Town, A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony, and A Little Maid of Old Connecticut. They're charming little books, republished in the 1990s by Applewood Books, which include "turn of the century" paper dolls to cut from the inside flaps. The writing is basic, and the plot twists obvious (and unlikely). Each heroine, a young girl with strong morals and a maturity beyond her years, plays an important role in the Revolution.

So far, so good. I plan to acquire more of these novels, and work with them throughout the semester. has been invaluable, as these aren't the sorts of books you find the local Barnes and Noble.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

Although I acquired The Tale of Despereaux well over a year ago, I've only just sat down to read it. Perhaps I was influenced by the new movie adaptation. Whatever the cause, I'm pleased to have (finally) read Kate Di Camillo's bestseller!

Despereaux, a darling mouse with a heart of gold, is the absurdly-large-eared hero of this enchanting tale. Like any good fairy tale, characters include a princess, a king, a scullery maid, and villainous rats. DiCamillo's work also contains less common characteristics. There is a certain darkness which runs throughout the tale - one of sorrow, death, and unhappiness. Even though all ends well, I can't help but be surprised by the darker bits. Moreso, I greatly appreciate DiCamillo's own courage (much like her mouse!) to tell the whole story, rather than giving readers a Disney-esque story made of sugar and happiness.

My reading of The Tale of Despereaux is timely for another reason, as well. With Christmas breathing down the back of my neck, the pressure to find the right gifts for one and all weighs heavily. Of course, I like to give books as gifts whenever possible. Some of Di Camillo's other works (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) have had their own moments in the spotlight, recently. It is clear that DiCamillo is a gifted children's writer, and is destined to be celebrated as one of the "best of the best." As for The Tale of Despereaux, well, I'm off to buy a few copies for my little cousins!

Kiddie Lit-er Suggestions:
To be read aloud, or by an older reader.
Ages 6 - 12. Not gender specific.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Every blog needs a first post. Over the years, I've written more than I could attempt to count. Really, it's a bit ridiculous. Still, here I am, beginning a new blog (again).

Why make another blog, if I'm so clearly a blog-abandoner? You see, this one is different (although I've said that before). This one is different, though. Why? Because it's not for me. This one is for others out there, looking for justification for their somewhat embarrassing reliance upon the best of the best - children's literature.

There's a magic in books for children and adolescents that simply cannot be found in books written for those beyond the age of oh, say, fifteen. Whether it's a change in the reader, the writer, or both, I'm not sure. Something ceases to exist.

That's where I come in. Call it silly, call it honorable, call it a waste of time - all the same, here I am. At nearly 23 years of age, I have hundreds of books. Far more than any of my friends, who tease me about it (as do my parents). I can't help it.

Having a personal library of such great size is nothing to scoff at. It's an accomplishment, or so I tell myself each time I add to the collection. What might be scoff-able though, is my continuously growing collection of children's books. First editions, cheap paperbacks, unopened copies, cracked spines and loose pages - they all find a home on my cramped shelves.

For now, I'll leave you with a few fun sites. Play with them.