Happy Birthday, Felicity!

FelicityBirthday

Happy Birthday, Felicity! by Valerie Tripp, 1992.

FelicityBirthdayGuitarIt’s Felicity’s birthday, and her grandfather has given her a very special present: a guitar that once belonged to her grandmother, who is now dead. Felicity’s grandfather has heard Felicity singing and thinks that she shares her grandmother’s gift for music. He also thinks that Felicity is old enough to take proper care of the instrument, stressing the need for her to be responsible with it. Her mother tells her that she should keep the guitar safely in the parlor since she isn’t quite old enough for proper music lessons, like the ones Miss Manderly is giving Elizabeth’s older sister, Annabelle. Annabelle has been getting on Elizabeth and Felicity’s nerves by bragging about how they are still to young to even hold her guitar, although Annabelle really has no musical talent and struggles in her lessons.

Although Felicity knows that she should leave the guitar at home, she can’t resist taking it to Miss Manderly’s so that Miss Manderly can tune it for her and so that she can show it off to Elizabeth and Annabelle. Miss Manderly does tune the guitar for her and compliments her on owning such a fine instrument.

FelicityBirthdayGunpowderHowever, on the way home, something frightening happens. Felicity sees Elizabeth’s father, a known Loyalist, talking to a British soldier. She ducks into a bush so they won’t see her, and she hears them talking about the governor removing the gunpowder from the Williamsburg arsenal so the colonists can’t use it in the rebellion that has been threatening to come for some time.

Felicity hurries home to tell her family what she has heard, but when her mother and grandfather see that she has taken the guitar out of the house and gotten it wet and dirty while she was hiding, they refuse to listen to her. Her grandfather, also a Loyalist, particularly thinks that she’s making up stories to cover her irresponsibility about the guitar.

But, Felicity knows what she heard, and the situation is serious. What can she do to prove it to everyone?

In the back of the book, there is a section with historical information about how children were raised in Colonial America.  Another good book on the same topic is Going to School in 1776.

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Amelia Bedelia’s Family Album

ABFamilyAlbum

Amelia Bedelia’s Family Album by Peggy Parish, 1988.

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers realize that they’ve never met the rest of Amelia Bedelia’s family, so they tell her that they’d like to give a party for her and family. Amelia Bedelia is happy about the party and shows Mr. and Mrs. Rogers some pictures of her relatives.

It turns out that her tendency to be extremely literal is a family trait. Her father is a telephone operator who operates on telephones and her mother is a “loafer” who makes loaves of bread. One of her uncles is a “big-game hunter” and has a checkers set that takes up an entire room, and another “takes pictures” in the sense that he is basically an art thief.

With each relative introduced, readers can pause for a moment to consider what each of Amelia’s relatives do, in a very literal sense, based on Amelia’s description, before turning the page to confirm it.  (I kind of identify with the “bookkeeper” because my room looks kind of like that, for similar reasons.)

In this picture book, Amelia Bedelia isn’t doing any chores or getting confused about instructions, like in other books, but all the occupation-related puns have the same feel as Amelia’s routine misunderstandings about the multiple meanings of words from the rest of the series.

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Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia

Merry Christmas Amelia Bedelia

Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, 1986.

Christmas is coming, and once again, Mrs. Rogers has left a list of things for Amelia Bedelia to do while she goes to pick up her Aunt Myra, who is visiting for the holiday.

Leaving Amelia Bedelia unsupervised with a list of instructions can be dangerous at any time of the year, but this time, Amelia Bedelia is in the holiday spirit, determined to do her literal best to stuff stockings (with the same kind of stuffing you might use with a turkey), trim the tree (to the size that she thinks Mrs. Rogers would want it), deck it out with lights and balls (light bulbs and sports balls of all kinds), and find an appropriate star to put on top (and, you know, who wouldn’t want to be a star?).

Merry Christmas Amelia Bedelia Balls on Tree

Merry Christmas Amelia Bedelia Tree Star

So what will Aunt Myra think of Amelia’s special brand of literal kookiness? Fortunately, she loves the idea of being a star, too. Amelia Bedelia may be aggravating in the way she interprets the instructions given to her, but she’s also endearingly humorous . . . and she bakes a really good spice cake, too.

Merry Christmas Amelia Bedelia Aunt Myra

Good Work, Amelia Bedelia

Good Work Amelia Bedelia

Good Work, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, 1976.

Amelia Bedelia works as a maid/housekeeper for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. They like her, but they have to be extremely careful about the orders and instructions that they give her because Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally. For example, when Mr. Rogers asks her for toast and an egg for breakfast, she gives him a raw egg straight out of the refrigerator because he never told her to cook it. Telling her to “go fly a kite” is also pointless because she’ll simply go to the park and do it.

Good Work Amelia Bedelia Fly a Kite

Possibly the most dangerous thing Mr. and Mrs. Rogers can do is leave Amelia Bedelia alone in the house with a “to do” list. Unsupervised, she reads each item on the list and does her best to obey all of the instructions to the letter. From putting plants in pots from the kitchen to making sure that the bread rises by hanging it from a string to making a “sponge cake” that includes actual sponge, Amelia Bedelia muddles her way through, getting everything wrong while still being technically correct.

Good Work Amelia Bedelia Bread Rises

Good Work Amelia Bedelia Sponge Cake

So, why do Mr. and Mrs. Rogers put up with her? Well, for one thing, she makes a terrific butterscotch cake.

Good Work Amelia Bedelia Butterscotch Cake.jpg

The Little Indian Basket Maker

BasketMaker

The Little Indian Basket Maker by Ann Nolan Clark and illustrated by Harrison Begay, 1957.

By “Indian,” the author means Native American.  This book specifically focuses on the  Papago (Tohono O’odam) who live in the Southwestern United States, specifically Arizona.  The story is about a young girl who is starting to learn the traditional art of basket-making, and the book goes into the process involved in making baskets, step by step.   Although the use of “Indian” instead of Native American is somewhat archaic, and Tohono O’odam is really the proper name for the Papago people, the book has something of an interesting history and the picture it provides of the practice of traditional crafts is fascinating.

BasketMakerGrandmother

A young girl explains how her grandmother teaches her the traditional craft of making baskets.  They start by gathering the types of plants that they are going to use.

BasketMakerPlants.jpg

They also need special plants for the dye they will need in order to decorate the baskets.  The girl’s grandmother explains about the different types of decorations they traditionally use.

BasketMakerDesigns

Making baskets is a long process that includes cleaning the plants and tearing them into long strips, bleaching them, soaking them to soften them, dyeing strips used in the design, and weaving them together.

BasketMakerSoftening

The girl weaves a mat that takes days to finish.  It is the first one that she’s made herself.

BasketMakerWeaving

She is very proud of herself when the mat is finished, and she is pleased with the quality of her work.

BasketMakerFinishing

There is a section at the beginning of the book which explains a little about the history of the Papago (Tohono O’odam) people and where they live.

I’ve owned this book since I was a young child, and it was my introduction to traditional crafts.  Later, I found a related book at a thrift store, The Little Indian Pottery Maker.  Until then, I hadn’t realized then just how old the books were and that there were more of them by the same author.

The book, which was written in the 1950s, was one of a group of stories (not exactly a series because they didn’t have a specific set of characters in common and the themes varied somewhat) written by a woman who was a teacher with the United States Indian Service.  The other books that she wrote, including The Little Indian Pottery Maker, focus on members of different Native American tribes.  She was not Native American herself, and the modern view of Indian schools is not favorable (for good reasons), so one might be a little suspicious of a book written about Native Americans by an Indian school teacher. However, these books interest me because of their explanation of traditional crafts. There are no white people in the stories at all, and they have a timeless quality to them.  Reading them, it’s hard to get a sense of exactly when the stories take place because it’s never mentioned, and there aren’t many clues (no mentions of modern technology, it’s all about the crafts).  I haven’t found any of the other books that the author wrote, but these two are very respectful in their tone, and they begin with explanations of the history of the tribes involved in the stories.  According to Andie Peterson in A Second Look: Native Americans in Children’s Books, the author was deliberately trying to write books that her Native American students could relate to.

The art style of the books vary because they had different illustrators.  The illustrator for this particular book was a Navajo painter.

The Little Indian Pottery Maker

PotteryMaker

The Little Indian Pottery Maker by Ann Nolan Clark and illustrated by Don Perceval, 1955.

By “Indian,” the author means Native American.  This book specifically focuses on the Pueblo Indians who live in the Southwestern United States, specifically New Mexico and Arizona.  The story is about a young girl who is starting to learn the traditional art of pottery-making, and the book goes into the process involved in making pottery, step by step.   Although the use of “Indian” instead of Native American is somewhat archaic, the book has something of an interesting history and the picture it provides of the practice of traditional crafts is fascinating.

PotteryMakerGettingClay

The young girl tells the story of how her mother introduces her to the traditional craft of making pottery and teaches her how to make her first pot.  She describes every step in the process, from when they collect the clay themselves from a hillside until the pot is finally complete.

PotteryMakerMixingClay

The girl’s mother explains about the different methods used to make pots, and pictures show how pots are shaped.

PotteryMakerRollingClay

PotteryMakerMakingPots

Making pottery is a long process that takes days to complete, including shaping, scraping and smoothing the sides, drying, decorating and finally firing the pottery.  The girl is proud of the first pot she has ever made.

PotteryMakerFiringPots

The beginning of the book explains a little about Pueblo Indians, their history, and where they live.

I found this book at a thrift store a number of years ago and recognized it because I already owned a related book, The Little Indian Basket Maker, that I liked when I was a young child.  I hadn’t realized then just how old the books were and that there were more of them by the same author.

The book, which was written in the mid-1950s, was one of a group of stories (not exactly a series because they didn’t have a specific set of characters in common and the themes varied somewhat) written by a woman who was a teacher with the United States Indian Service.  The other books that she wrote, including The Little Indian Basket Maker, focus on members of different Native American tribes.  She was not Native American herself, and the modern view of Indian schools is not favorable (for good reasons), so one might be a little suspicious of a book written about Native Americans by an Indian school teacher. However, these books interest me because of their explanation of traditional crafts. There are no white people in the stories at all, and they have a timeless quality to them.  Reading them, it’s hard to get a sense of exactly when the stories take place because it’s never mentioned, and there aren’t many clues (no mentions of modern technology, it’s all about the crafts).  I haven’t found any of the other books that the author wrote, but these two are very respectful in their tone, and they begin with explanations of the history of the tribes involved in the stories.  According to Andie Peterson in A Second Look: Native Americans in Children’s Books, the author was deliberately trying to write books that her Native American students could relate to.

The art style of the books vary because they had different illustrators.  The illustrator for this particular book was not Native American (unlike some of the illustrators of other books), but he was adopted into a Hopi tribe, apparently as an adult because of his accomplishments in representing Hopi culture in art.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet

LegendBluebonnet

The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola, 1983.

This is a story about the Comanche People in what is now Texas, based on an old folktale.

There has been a severe drought and famine in the land for a long time, and many people have died.  The survivors pray to the spirits for help in ending the drought, and they receive a sign that it will not end until someone among the Comanches makes a sacrifice of the thing that is most dear to them.

LegendBluebonnetShaman

The people debate about who is supposed to make the sacrifice and what object the spirits could want, but one young girl thinks that the spirits are talking about her and her doll.  The girl is called She-Who-Is-Alone because she is the last of her family.  Her parents and grandparents are dead, victims of the famine.  The only thing she has left to remind her of them is her doll, a warrior with blue feathers in its hair, that her parents made for her before they died.

Desperate to end the drought and famine and to save her people, the girl makes the difficult decision to sacrifice her doll by burning it.  Her sacrifice is rewarded not only by the end of the drought but by the sudden appearance of a field of flowers as blue as the feathers in her doll’s hair.  The girl receives a new name from her people, acknowledging her sacrifice on their behalf.

LegendBluebonnetFlowers

A section in the back of the book explains a little about the Bluebonnet flower, which is the state flower of Texas, and the origins of the story in the book, which is based on a folktale.  This is also a little information about the Comanche People.

Giving Thanks

GivingThanks

Giving Thanks by Kate Waters, 2001.

This book describes the feast of 1621 that we think of as “the first Thanksgiving” from the point of view of two boys: Resolved White (a six-year-old English colonist) and Dancing Moccasins (a fourteen-year-old Wampanoag).  The book explains that the reality of this feast is somewhat different from the way many people think of it.  For one thing, the exact date is unknown, and it wasn’t really a single meal but a kind of harvest celebration that took place over several days.  The events of that celebration were recreated using reenactors from the Plimoth Plantation living history museum.

In the beginning of the book, Dancing Moccasins explains that his family has been harvesting their crops and preparing to move to the place where they live in the winter. Wampanoag lived in different places depending on the time of year, moving between them when the seasons changed.  At their winter home, they would continue hunting and fishing, returning to the place where they planted their crops at the end of winter.

GivingThanksBeginning

Similarly, Resolved’s family has finished harvesting their crops and have stored up food for the winter.  Now that most of the hard work is over, they have time to relax and celebrate.  The community is planning a feast.  Resolved and his friend, Bartle, follow some of the men, who are going out hunting and target-shooting.

The colonists meet up with some of the Wampanoag, which is how Dancing Moccasins and Resolved first see each other.  Dancing Moccasins returns home and tells his father what he has seen.  Then, a messenger arrives from their chief, Massasoit, saying that he will be visiting the colonists soon, and Dancing Moccasins’s father is invited to come.

GivingThanksMessenger

Just as Dancing Moccasins is wondering about the purpose of this visit, Resolved is wondering the same thing because word has reached the colonists that they will soon be visited by the chief and representatives of the tribe.  (The book explains in the back that the exact reasons for the Wampanoag visit to the colonists are unknown today, only that it happened at the same time that the colonists were planning their harvest feast.) The two boys meet again when Dancing Moccasins accompanies his father on the visit to the colonists’ village.

GivingThanksGovernorDinner

When the Wampanoag arrive at the village, they are treated as honored guests, and some of the Wampanoag go deer-hunting to provide a present for their hosts.  The chief dines with the governor of the colonists.  The Wampanoag build shelters for themselves, where they will stay during their visit.

GivingThanksShelters

Eventually, Dancing Moccassins invites Resolved to play a game with him and some other Wampanoag boys when he sees him watching them.  Some of the Wampanoag men also join in the games that the English men play, like competing to see who can throw a log the farthest.

GivingThanksGames

At the end of the day, Dancing Moccassins and Resolved each eat with their own families, but there is plenty for everyone.

There is a section in the back with historical information about the harvest feast, traditions about giving thanks among both the colonists and the Wampanoag, and how Thanksgiving eventually became a national holiday.  There is also information about food and clothing in the time of the story and a recipe for samp (a kind of corn pottage eaten by the Wampanoag and later adopted by the English colonists).  The book also has some information about the Plimoth Plantation living history museum and the reeanctors.  It is part of a series of books by the same author about the lives of children in Colonial America.

Samuel Eaton’s Day

Samuel Eaton's Day

Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters, 1993.

This is the story of a boy who traveled to America from England on the Mayflower and whose family lived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The book focuses particularly on how a boy like Samuel would have helped with a harvest during the year 1627.  The role of Samuel in the book is played by a boy who is one of the reenactors at the Plimoth Plantation living history museum.

Samuel’s mother died when he was a baby, but his father remarried, and he now has a stepmother (whom he calls “Mam”) and a younger half-sister, Rachel.  Now that Samuel is seven years old, he is considered old enough to help the men bring in the rye harvest.  Samuel is eager to help because he wants to prove that he is no longer just a little boy and that he is capable of doing a man’s work.

The book begins with Samuel waking up and getting dressed in the morning.  He has a few routine chores to perform, such as getting water, gathering firewood, and checking a snare that he has set for catching wild game, before he and his father go to the fields to help with the harvest.  After breakfast, Samuel and his father meet up with a neighbor, Robert Bartlett, and go to the fields with the other men.

SamuelEatonBinding

Robert Bartlett tells Samuel that it will take a few days for them to complete the harvest.  Samuel isn’t considered old enough to wield a sickle by himself, so he is given the task of gathering up the rye that his father and Bartlett cut and binding it into sheaves.  It’s hard work, and at times, Samuel wonders if he’s really up to the task.  When his Mam comes with lunch, she gives Samuel the chance to come home with her, if he is too tired, but Samuel is determined to stay and finish out the day.

SamuelEatonLunch

At the end of the day, Samuel is very tired and has blisters, but he is proud of the work he has done, and the men congratulate him.

The end of the book has a section that explains a little about the real Samuel Eaton, who eventually had his own farm when he grew up, and the boy who reenacted his life, Roger Burns.  There is also information about the clothing of the period, the Wampanoag people (seen briefly when Samuel is helping to gather mussels for the family’s dinner), the rye harvest, and the Plimoth Plantation living history museum.  The book also provides the lyrics to the song that Samuel and the others sing to entertain themselves while they’re working in the fields, The Marriage of the Frog and the Mouse.

Sarah Morton, a girl who was featured in an earlier book in the series, also appears briefly in this book.

SamuelEatonSarah

Tapenum’s Day

Tapenum's Day

Tapenum’s Day by Kate Waters, 1996.

This is about a day in the life of a Wampanoag boy living in the area around Plymouth, Massachusetts during the 1620s.  His life is reenacted by Issac Hendricks, who was a participant in the Wampanoag Indian Program at the Plimoth Plantation living history museum.

In the beginning, Tapenum introduces himself, explaining a little about his people and the strangers who have only recently come to their land, the English colonists, whom the Wampanoag call wautaconuoag (meaning “coat-men”).  Tapenum has just learned that he was not among those young men chosen to train as pniesog, a special kind of warrior among the Wampanoag who also possessed spiritual powers and acted as advisors and diplomats for their chief.  It has come as a great disappointment to him that he was not chosen for training.  To improve his chances of being chosen later, Tapenum has decided to train himself to improve his strength and hunting abilities.

Tapenum's Day Begins

Tapenum goes out hunting early in the morning, while his mother and sister are still asleep.  He starts before eating anything because he says that being hungry “makes the hunter more serious.”  Eventually, he catches and rabbit and a squirrel.  His mother is pleased with his catch, although his father has done even better by bringing home a wild turkey, which is even more difficult.

Tapenum's Day Hunting Trip

Later, Tapenum meets up with a friend, Nootimis.  The two of them go fishing in a canoe.  Nootimis knows that Tapenum is disappointed about not being chosen, but Tapenum says that at least he can still spend time with him before (hopefully) going away for training next year.

Tapenum's Friend

After fishing, Tapenum goes for a run as part of his training, and he sees smoke.  When he investigates, he finds an old wise man named Waban making a canoe.  Waban was a pniese himself when he was younger, and Tapenum offers him the fish he caught, hoping the Waban can tell him some things that will help him to be chosen for training.

Tapenum meets Waban

Tapenum ends up spending the rest of the day with the older man, learning and perfecting his skill at fletching arrows.  Waban also explains to him the importance of patience.  Tapenum is in too much of a hurry to grow up and begin serious training, but growing up takes time and so does developing the kind of strength and wisdom that he will need as warrior.

Tapenum learns some lessons

There is a section in the back of the book that explains more about the Wampanoag people, the the Wampanoag Indian Program, the Plimoth Plantation living history museum, and the boy reenacting Tapenum’s life.

This is part of a series of books focusing on the lives of children in Colonial American history.