Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Gathering of Days (1980)

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

A Gathering of Days was a very quick read, being only about 145 pages and written in the form of a teenage girl's diary with frequent breaks. This would be a great book to read with elementary students who are learning about 19th century New England because it chronicles a year of a girl's life in Connecticut from 1830-1831 and deals with many relevant issues of the time. The main historical one is about fugitive slaves as Catherine and her friends come across one who needs help on his way to freedom in Canada.

Catherine deals with a number of other issues in this year in which she keeps the journal, and because it begins with a letter from her to her great-granddaughter, we get a preview of what's going to happen. I found that I didn't like this because it kept me wondering the entire time when her best friend Cassie was going to die (which is given away in the first page by the aforementioned letter). It made me feel unattached to that character throughout the book because I knew she wasn't going to make it.

One thing that I think is well-done about the book is the voice of Catherine as she tells what's happening to her. Not having researched how children thought, talked, or behaved in the 19th century very deeply, I can't attest too much to its accuracy. However, it felt accurate as I was reading it. I also liked how she makes it clear how she is feeling in very few words or sentences. It would be great for teaching skills on inferring from texts. (Once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess).

I didn't give it a higher rating only because it didn't grab me quite as much as some of the other Newbery books have. I still zipped through it and enjoyed it.

Great vocabulary:

abcedarian (p. 63): noun. dictionary.com suggests that the current spelling of this is "abecedarian" who is someone just beginning to learn the alphabet. Great word!

dimity (p. 118): noun. "a thin cotton fabric, white, dyed, or printed, woven with a stripe or check of heavier yarn."

loquacious (p. 129): adjective. "talking or tending to talk much or freely; talkative; chattering; babbling; garrulous: a loquacious dinner guest"

Favorite quotes:

"Trust, and not submission, defines obedience." p. 139.
I like this one because it speaks to me as a teacher and as a parent. Sometimes I need the children to obey what I tell them or ask them to do, and it is clear that children follow more readily out of trust than fear of negative consequence.

"I wonder if it common to feel that never is a place so loved as when one has to leave it?" p. 142
I think this is entirely common, so I'm not sure why I liked this quote so much. Perhaps because I feel this way about Michigan every time I have to come back to Washington, which happens regularly these days.


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