Tag Archives: Vaccines

Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson – The Newbery Project

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hattie-big-skyIf Hattie wasn’t Irish, she should have been been. What else could possibly explain Murphy’s Law apparently being the theme for this entire book?

There were many, oh so many, possible ways this book could have ended with at least a tiny ray of hope. But none, oh none of them, actually occurred.

  • Hattie could have borrowed just enough money to save her claim.
  • Traft Martin could have had at least one redeeming quality, making Hattie’s  in-and-out relationship with him feel like it had a purpose.
  • Hattie could have married her friend Charlie (why else did they write each other constantly?).
  • Some small portion of the crop she slaved over could have been saved.
  • The children she loved so much could have gotten really sick, but by a miracle, come through the Spanish Flu alive.

Or, if you’re really into being totally bummed out while reading for pleasure:

  • Traft Martin. our handsome anti-hero, could be completely and hopelessly irredeemable.
  • Hattie could end up, after a year of back-breaking work with less than she started out  and going off to be a chamber maid in a boarding house — the very job she traveled to Montana to avoid.
  • Her favorite little girl could die painfully, while lying in Hattie’s arms.
  • Hattie’s best friends could move away and desert her to fend for herself.

You tell me — which version of this story would you prefer to read?

When just over half way through Hattie Big Sky I bragged to my brother about how much I was enjoying reading the Newbery books. How the one I was reading right then was so good that I couldn’t decide which of my nieces to give a copy to — or whether I should just give one to each of them. “It is that good,” I said.

Then I read the final chapters, in which literally, it seemed, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, in every possible way. Everything. I have still not gotten over the disappointment. I still complain about it every time this book comes up in conversation (which is surprisingly often, probably due more to my state of frustration than to anyone’s actual interest in hearing my complaints).

I understand that the Newbery judges like a good tragedy. They like death. They like poverty. They like orphans. They like parents who desert their children, or who don’t like them much. But personally, I can’t believe that we need to tell our kids that life is quite that hard — at least not all in one book. Surely children need a tiny ray of hope to go on. Just a smidgen. Anything.

Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson

Newbery Honor Book – 2007

A.R Level: 4.4; Middle Grades +

Lexile: 700L

Penny From Heaven, by Jennifer Holm – The Newbery Project

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Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm

I now know what an Iron Lung looks like. (Thank you, Jennifer L. Holm for making me wonder and thank you Google for making pictures of EVERYTHING so easy to find.) The most horrible part about the Iron Lung is that some people who contracted polio ended up using an Iron Lung for life. I mean, look at these things:

1280px-Iron_lungs

I worry every day that O will catch yet another virus from one of the other babies in his daycare and we’ll end up, yet again, hunkered down for the long haul at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Doing a little research on polio makes me feel a little paranoid. These days, there’s almost no chance that your typical immunized kid will come down with a deadly casually transmitted disease. (Thank you, Dr. Salk!) And the next time I get all pitiful about O being hooked up to oxygen for almost three weeks:

2013-03-27 In the hospital...again

Next time, I’m going to remind myself of the iron lung, and the fact that he’ll never get polio. And I’m going to remember to be grateful.

From Jennifer Holm’s website:

It’s 1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing’s that easy in Penny’s family. For starters, she can’t go swimming because her mother’s afraid she’ll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her father’s name is mentioned. And the two sides of her family aren’t speaking to each other!

Penny From Heaven was an enjoyable flashback to a bygone era, but Turtle in Paradise is still my favorite of Holm’s three Newbery honored books. I listened to Turtle long before I started The Newbery Project. I’ll be reading (or listening to) it again when I’ve finished the rest of the Newbery books from the 2000s. A little piece of me wonders — will I love it as much the second time, now that I’ve read so many other wonderful books for kids?

Stay tuned to find out.

Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm; Narrated by Amber Rose Sealey

Newbery Honor – 2007

A.R. Level: 4.0; Middle Grades