Friday, October 19, 2007

Thimble Summer

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright was a delighful book. This is a story about 9 1/2 year old Garnet and her life in a small town in Wisconsin. This book won in 1939 and while I grew up in the 1960s, I felt that the topics were timeless. Garnet, her family, and her friends work hard to keep the farm and enjoy life. I loved that the author provided short chapters which could easily be read aloud. We have assigned the grade level 4-6 to this book although the stories might be a little too "old-fashioned" for today's sixth grader. Unless of course one is raising a prize hog or chasing after hens! There is conflict and redemption for Garnet and her family. But mostly it is just fun!

The best thing about this book is the writing which is very beautiful. The book opens with Garnet thinking how very hot it is. Here is the passage:

It was like being inside of a drum. The sky like a bright skin was stretched tight above the vallet, and the earth too, was tight and hard with heat. Later, when it was dark, there would be a noise of thunder, as though a great hand beat upon the drum; there would be heavy clouds above the hills, and flashes of heat lightening, but no rain. It had been like that for a long time. p. 3-4

Another thing I really liked about this book was the presentation of family values. Citronella, friend to Garnet, has her great grandmother tell stories about the old days. Again we see reference to the Native Americans in Wisconsin...but it is a brief description of sharing between the settlers and the Indians. Garnet's family welcomes a stranger to their home - again sharing what was available. As this book was published right after the Depression, I think the author included these types of stories to point out that suffering might be lessened when shared.

The author, like her mother, was an illustrator before she began writing. The illustrations she created for this book are very nice - some are in color and some are ink drawings. The stories were based on her summer visits to the Wisconsin farm of Frank Lloyd Wright.

One final story - the two girls go to the public library in town and in fact get so absorbed in their books that they get locked in! Here is the description of the library (and unfortunately the librarian):

Finally on the outskirts of town they came to the library, an old-fashioned frame building set back from the road among thick-foliaged maple trees.
Garnet loved the library; it smelled deliciously of old books and was full of stories that she had never read. Miss Pentland, the librarian, was a nice little fat lady who sat behind an enormous desk facing the door. p. 56

I think I have been to that library in a small town in Tennessee! And although I did not find this book when I was 10, I am glad that I found it now. Delightful!

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