100 Chapter Books Project: Ramona and Her Father

RamonaAndHerFather

Ramona and Her Father (1977) by Beverly Cleary is the second Ramona book on the Top 100 Chapter Books list. It’s kind of strange that only the second and fourth books of this series got on the list. Even stranger is how different these two books are from each other.

What it’s about: Ramona is now seven and in the second grade. Things change around her house when her father loses his job and her mother goes to work full time while he looks for a new job. Ramona and her father have to deal with the stresses of spending more time together when he is not in a good mood.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: I really liked the anti-smoking message. Beezus and Ramona both put pressure on their dad to quit smoking and, though it’s not easy for him and he ignores them at first, he eventually tries. This would have been a big deal in 1977.

Worst part: Ramona and her dad are in pretty constant conflict in this book, both from the stress of losing his job and from quitting smoking. And yet, after this original cover, all of them show both of them as super happy. I love that this cover acknowledges the tension and hate that future ones have to pretend everything is just peachy.

Verdict: Borrow

This was so much better than Ramona the Pest, mostly because Ramona was a kid without being a terror. The mistakes she made were honest and not bratty at all. It was also a realistic depiction of the stresses that are put on a household when a breadwinner loses their job. This book would definitely work as a stand-alone read.

Next up is Okay For Now and I’m excited to read another Gary D. Schmidt book after loving The Wednesday Wars. It’s a loose sequel and I expect it to be quite different because of the character that it focuses on but hopefully the storytelling is of the same quality.

*****
Schedule – July through October
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)
September 30 – #13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997)
October 15 – #99 The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren (1942)

100 Chapter Books Project: Little House on the Prairie

littlehouseprairie

I have to admit that there have been a couple of books that I have dreaded having to read on the Top 100 Chapter Books list and one of them was definitely Little House on the Prairie (1935) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn’t want to read this series as a kid, I think because I grew up in Hawaii and Southern California and so the prairie just seemed like an awful, drab place, so far away from anything I had ever known. My ideal survivalist fantasy was the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse (in the Disney film), out on a lovely island with tropical birds and monkeys and a baby elephant that I could befriend. I love the idea of finding your place in an environment rather than forcing it to conform to what you think it should be.

So, I wasn’t very happy when I read Little House in the Big Woods a couple of years ago because of the way that the Ingalls family and others claimed dominion over all the animals (and killed tons of them), the way that they treated their children, and the numerous platitudes about how “good” children should act. Well, I ran into these problems again with this one but, far worse, it added in some horrifying views on the native inhabitants of the prairie. Not only did the family move into Indian Territory without permission, but they actually stated that they were just biding their time until the US Government came and forced the natives out. The mother and the neighbor lady said repellant things about these people that they had never met and the words “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” were used, much to my horror. Once Laura even threw a tantrum because her father wouldn’t take a young native baby from its mother for her to have even though she wanted it. Yes, to her and her family these natives barely even qualified as people sometimes. It was disgusting and a total low point in the history of our country but is totally passed off as normal in this book. I could see having children read it if you were going to specifically have a discussion with them about discrimination and displacement and racism but I can’t see handing it to them as a light, fun read. Honestly, I am having a very hard time knowing that anyone views this as a favorite book. With the rampant racism that is resurfacing both in America and abroad, I would rather find books for my child that celebrate diversity or at least honestly discuss why white settlers and colonists, explorers and pilgrims, were not always on the right side of history.

Anyway, you can probably figure out that I can’t recommend this book except as a guided discussion read. Between Laura being called “greedy” for taking a single lick of her Christmas peppermint stick (which makes NO sense since the author is, essentially, writing about herself!) to the constant refrains of “children should not speak unless spoken to”, etc., I think this book is better left in the past with its outdated views.

Whew! Sorry for skipping my usual format but this book just made me so angry as I was reading it. Hopefully Ramona and Her Father is a pleasant, light read. I honestly don’t remember anything about it though I’m sure I read it as a kid!

*****
Schedule – July through September
July 15 – #94 Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1977)
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)
September 30 – #13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997)

100 Chapter Books Project: Matilda

matilda

Number 30 on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, Matilda (1988) by Roald Dahl, might deserve to be higher on the list based solely on how hard it was for me to get a copy of it! I was on hold since May 1 for an audiobook and never ended up anywhere near the front of the list. The two copies in Z’s school library were both out until this week as well and no paper copies were available in our large library system either. I finally had to read an ebook copy on my phone. This is a book that is obviously still very popular even though it’s almost 30 years old.

What it’s about: Matilda is a very bright young girl who has a horrible family. The only thing that saves her are the books she reads. Soon, though, she’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find the magic that will save her and the friends she cares about.

Age level: Grades 3-5

Best part: I loved how Dahl described the way Matilda felt as she was doing magic, for the first time and how it changed as she did it more. She says that she feels like she is “flying past the stars on silver wings”. I don’t know what could sound more magical than that.

Worst part: That the magic didn’t show up until the final quarter of the book! I would have loved much more magic but, in a short book, it’s forgivable, I guess.

Verdict: Buy

I don’t know why I never read Matilda until now, especially when I’ve read just about everything else Roald Dahl ever wrote. This is definitely one of his best and I love that it even has a list of great classics inside it that will hopefully always inspire kids to try one or two!

Next, I’ll be reading Little House on the Prairie for the first time in my life. (I know, I know.)

*****
Schedule – June through September
June 30 – #27 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)
July 15 – #94 Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1977)
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)