The theme for this week being books taking place in history, made finding books a little difficult, but I managed to find 3 picture books that fit the bill. I added these to my list along with the assigned reading. While reading I tried (without pulling myself out of the story too much) to think about how who is telling the story can change what one gets out of a reading. If it were possible to read a book, finish it and immediately pick it back up and get the same story from another’s point of view how would it affect my feelings and attachments to certain characters and events? I would also like to note that my 3 picture books are all written by Deborah Hopkinson though they are each illustrated by a different person. This also affects how the reader senses characters and setting. Though the voice of the author did not change, the voice of the artist did and brought with them a new element to each of the picture books. I felt a spark in my mind getting to see these different perspectives. I am drawn to this experience and I want to see further how different artists bring to life the author’s words.
Miss Spitfire Reaching Helen Keller
by Sarah Miller
This story of Helen Keller’s early education is told from the oft forgotten view of the teacher. I never thought about Helen’s teacher before reading this book and I found the experience fascinating. Annie’s motivations are completely different than anyone else that could tell this story. Annie’s story gives insight into the gauntlet that teaching can be when proper support is not readily available. It’s not only Annie’s voice that changes the perception of the over-told water story, the change of setting allows the reader not only to see Annie in a new light but, also Helen, the rest of her family and the boy who works in the little house. Because of this setting change the reader is given the gift of an inside looking out perspective. The doting parents one meets in the big house are revealed to be coddling and thusly blockading Helen into a life of solitude. If it had been someone from Helen’s family as the voice of the story, I’m sure that Annie would have been painted as a deranged abuser. Though her tactics are terrible, they are a mark of the time and must be seen as such. Ultimately I found this book a surprisingly quick read, I took it in large chunks so as to properly digest each piece, very much unlike Helen and her cake.
written by Deborah Hopkinson illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
This story is told from the view of a loving daughter and leads the reader from heartbreak to healing. In a time when many families are picking up and heading west towards the plains, the father of this family of four decides it is time for them to do the same. The devastation of the mother is shown through the daughter’s eyes. And in their new home on the prairie, it only gets worse when what would now be called postpartum depression sets in on the young mother. The setting is what guides this book, it’s first change is the catalyst of heartbreak and it’s second change ringing with the familiarity of far away friends and their flowers brings the beginning of healing and hope. I found this book particularly upsetting because it was told from the view of the daughter, but it would have been ever so much more heart wrenching had it been told by the point of view of the father or mother. They are at the heart of this very grown up problem and the innocence of the young girl dulls the sensation of despair.
written by Deborah Hopkinson illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
This book was just lovely. It was fun and bouncy to the point where you could almost feel as if you, yourself were in the wagon bumping along to Portland, OR. As told from the perspective of a little girl, apple-y named Delicious, the reader is set off on an adventure with a fruit farmer and his family. Through the girl’s eyes we are shown just how much this young one believes her father loves the trees more than anything else, including his own wife and children. With each change of setting comes a new thing for the children to give up for their father’s beloved trees, boots, clothes, pots and pans, nothing is out of bounds. It’s almost sad, until we see the father’s perspective. If the entire books were from his view, we would see a man who only wants the best for his family and as soon as he is able, he gives it to them.
written by Deborah Hopkinson illustrated by John Hendrix
A narrator tells the story of young Charles Dickens who, with his family in debtors prison, must care for himself. Though the reader learns of Dickens hardships and dreams, more of a connection could be made if told from the child’s view. The settings do well to add to the understanding of Dickens’ early life., giving not just places for the story to be held, but the feelings that go along with them. Each setting is so wonderfully and simply explained, that I nearly felt myself in those places. They brought me closer and helped me to empathize with Dickens.