scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
The story follows Hans, a baker's son who dreams of becoming a Riding Master someday. He demonstrates a sincerity and passion in his pursuit of knowledge and experience that is admirable and contagious, and his singular focus brings him closer and closer to his goal of someday doing the courbette on his beloved Borina.
I enjoyed reading this in a large format rather than a mass-market paperback -- Wesley Dennis's numerous small illustrations really help tell the story, especially when complex horse ballet movements are described.
Scrounged From: A gift from a relative
Author: Marguerite Henry
Illustrator: Wesley Dennis
Content Advisory: Injury and death are briefly described, but not in detail.
Many girls love horses, and while I was not as intense as some (I never sought out riding lessons or anything like that), if my eventual fascination can be traced back to anything, I think it would have to be this book. King of the Wind is definitely my favorite of Marguerite Henry's many horse stories.
On the surface, it is the story of a boy and his horse, and the ups and downs (and eventual triumphs) of their journey together through several countries. But I feel that Henry has captured more than just a story here -- it feels like a legend, and Sham, while remaining a non-anthropomorphized horse, portrays a little something beyond just an animal -- he really feels like a historical figure who has since become larger than life.
I remember how much this book gripped my imagination as a girl -- I felt Agba's innocence, loneliness, and occasional despair, and felt so keenly the connection between the horse and the boy. This was aided by Wesley Dennis's superb illustrations, which capture the beauty of the horse characters throughout their many movements (if you can get a copy of this book that has the full color illustrations, do it!).
On another level, I think this book reminds us all that we are more than our "pedigrees." Sham proves himself by what he does, not by what is written down about who/where he comes from.
Scrounged From: PaperbackSwap.com
Author: Marguerite Henry
Illustrator: Wesley Dennis
Content Advisory: There are some depictions of cruelty to horses and people.
Mary on Horseback is an interesting and inspiring story -- I don't remember hearing about Mary Breckinridge before, but this is a great introduction to her work, written in three short stories that also help give children a picture of what this time period and region were like.
After losing two husbands and two children, Mary Breckinridge could have given in to despair, but instead she gave her skills and her life to help others, the poorest of the poor. Whether she is saving a father's leg from amputation, inoculating children against deadly diseases, or delivering and caring for babies, Breckinridge and her team of frontier nurses served the people in the Appalachian region and helped them in ways no one else would or could.
Scrounged From: HomeschoolClassifieds.com (Sonlight Core A)
Author: Rosemary Wells
Content Advisory: Some descriptions of illness and injury.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson was an enjoyable read about a year in the life of Shirley Temple Wong (her "American name"), a Chinese girl who moves to the United States with her family. The ups and downs of her adjustment to the culture are both sad and humorous at times, and I found her growing baseball enthusiasm to be relatable, as a former big-time fan myself.
The writing covers twelve months in a short book, so some scenes and actions seem like they could have been fleshed out more. I also didn't care for the bullying scene that seemed to imply that accepting violence from a bully is a great way to become their friend. But overall it was a nice look at the time period (1947), the immigrant experience (as well as a few aspects of her Chinese culture), and the inspiration that Jackie Robinson brought to people from so many walks of life.
Author: Bette Bao Lord
Content Advisory: A scene of bullying.
I had fairly high expectations for this book, and was not at all disappointed with The Giver after reading it as an adult. Lois Lowry's world-building is both subtle and thorough, creating a believable futuristic community in which the seemingly trouble-free lives of the inhabitants are tightly controlled. Everything seems harmonious at first glance, but there are cracks of course, and Jonas, the main character, finds that his eventual "assignment" involves learning about some of the more unpleasant aspects of life, so that those around him don't have to.
He has to decide what to do with his new-found knowledge, especially when the life of a child hangs in the balance. I found it to be a very compelling, layered story -- though I would definitely recommend it more to young adults and adults than middle grade even though it won the Newbery Medal (due to some violence and thematic elements).
It was another sixteen years before this became a series and Gathering Blue was published. I liked this one too, also for the similarly intriguing world-building (in a different location than Jonas's), but while I loved the characters and most of the story, I thought the plot was ultimately a bit anti-climactic. Still, the introductions to the characters and place are important for the rest of the series.
Next is The Messenger which is set in the same place as Gathering Blue (with a different main character), but helps to widen the scope of the series' world. This one is bleaker than the last, with a sad ending, but I still really liked it.
The last book, Son, is my favorite of the sequels (though I would recommend all of them) as it gradually ties all the threads of the different locations of the world together (and introduces a new one), with a good mix of new characters without forgetting the familiar ones. The characters show love and determination, and experience a wide range of difficulties and triumphs by the end.
Scrounged From: PaperbackSwap.com and our local flea market