Historical novels can encourage introspection

Friday, September 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Someone once said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I agree, and I'd like to add: Those who know little of their own past are bound to repeat it. It never ceases to amaze me how many people pay little or no attention to their own shortcomings, mistakes and bad behavior. What each of us does or fails to do makes a mark on our personal historical register and adds or subtracts to the "history" of those who have benefited or been hurt by us.

We'd all do well to look at ourselves objectively, every day, and assess what role we've played in the day's events, good and bad. Doing this also helps us anticipate future consequences, allowing us to choose more wisely and improve our own history. After all, isn't that what growth and wisdom are all about?

Reading books with children that touch on history (such as those reviewed today) can broaden understanding of the world and of self. And there are hundreds more such worthy books on the shelves of your bookstore and library.

Books to borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis (Delacorte Press, 243 pages)

Read aloud: Ages 9 and older

Read yourself: Ages 9 and older

Winner of a Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature, Bud, Not Buddy takes readers on an unforgettable journey of laughter, hard times, love and courage.

Ten-year-old Bud Caldwell lives in Flint, Mich. The year is 1936 – the midst of the Great Depression. Bud's mother died four years earlier, and the boy never knew his father. He has been shuffled back and forth from an orphanage to various foster homes. None have been good experiences, and this last family was the worst. Bud decides he'll set out on his own and find his father, no matter what it takes. He has only one clue, but it's solid. His mother collected posters of a famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, and one man's picture was on every one – Herman E. Calloway. Bud is convinced this must be his father.

Carrying nothing more than his suitcase filled with life treasures, Bud heads for Grand Rapids. The young boy has grit, determination and one other item in his favor: "Bud Caldwell's Rules of Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself" – a compilation of hundreds of rules to live by, written by Bud.

Heartwarming, introspective and filled with slices of history, this is one selection you mustn't miss.


Library: Grand Prairie Memorial Library, 901 Conover Drive, Grand Prairie

Library Director: Kathy Ritterhouse

Children's Librarian: Jennifer Walker

Choices this week: Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes; Maybe Next Year by Amy Hest; A Drop of Water by Walter Wick

Books to buy

The following books are available at your local bookstore.

Hog Music, by M.C. Helldorfer, illustrated in color by S. D. Schindler (Viking, 32 pages, $15.99 hardcover)

Read aloud: Ages 3 and older

Read yourself: Ages 7 and older

Life in the United States in the 1840s was changing rapidly, and like many families, Lucy and her family were heading west in their Conestoga wagon. Lucy wished desperately that Great Aunt Liza would join them, but she declined, saying there was nothing out there but "hog music.'' Several months later, Great Aunt Liza purchased a plain straw hat for Lucy, put it in a round wooden box with a latch, and wrote, "Happy Birthday from Aunt Liza." She gave the box to a friend who was heading west by mail coach.

Little did Aunt Liza realize how many different people would help get that package to Lucy, nor how her gift would wind up being an odd assortment of treasures from the many hands who helped it on its way.

Filled with humor, high adventure, history and a reminder of the value of being a trustworthy person, Hog Music has all the makings of a great picture book.

Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, 215 pages, $15 hardcover)

Read aloud: Ages 9 and older

Read yourself: Ages 10 and older

Kira is physically disabled, recently orphaned and lives in a society that discards those who cannot contribute to the good of the whole. She has but one friend, a small boy, who offers to help her survive.

But her neighbors are hostile, and Kira is summoned to appear before The Council of Guardians, who will pass judgment on her fate. Certain that she will be found unworthy, Kira is surprised to find they judge her otherwise. Her life is spared because she possesses an important, almost magical talent.

After her task is set forth by the council, the things that she discovers about herself, her community and what lies beyond change her life and her world forever.

Deeply moving, Gathering Blue will prompt readers to examine important issues in their own world while being offered a glimpse of what a future society might be like.

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