Wednesday, December 5, 2007

1937 Roller Skates Ruth Sawyer

In 1937 this delightful book won the Newbery Medal. When the author Ruth Sawyer received the medal she let her audience into the secret that she herself had known the ten year old Lucinda intimately – ‘Lucinda and I had the same mother’. The acceptance speech is printed at the start of my copy and was a joy to read. Ruth spoke about the ‘urge of freedom for a child’. In this simple story we see Lucinda roller skating around the city learning what it means to ‘belong’, learning about ‘everyday people’ and within the same year learning through experience of the big questions of life and death. Behind the apparent simplicity I could not help but reflect upon the generation of young Lucindas and their experiences as they yearn for such freedom.

Full of imagination Lucinda exclaims ‘I have joined a lucky orphanage’ and is excited at the thought of sleeping in a folding bed. We hear later of how books filled a large portion of her inner world – many then listed will be familiar to us as we see them in the lists of today, like Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. I loved the her joy and love of playing with words!

Ruth Sawyer tells us ‘Nature had succeeded in pumping her full of ideas and energy which ran amuck when not worked off’. Needless to say books inspired her and she, rather like us wanted to share that love. We hear how Lucinda while reading Shakespeare to Tony ‘She noticed with a quickening eye how the imagery caught at Tony’s spirit. He sucked in his breath at this new discovery of beauty in words’. How wonderful is that !

Despite being of a different era I loved the language used and the way in which that love of language is so much to the fore throughout this book! Highly recommended.

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