I was doing so well, really, until the third Thursday of June fell during the week of BoyChild’s Things that Go camp at church and as I was getting us ready for a weekend getaway for Father’s Day! I totally thought I had another week to get it posted, so here it is, a week late, and I’m going to just go with it! (After all, Fun Fourth Frowback Friday just doesn’t work for me!) Here’s the Themed Third (plus one!) Throwback Thursday for the 1950s, the decade in which my parents started reading!
Here’s our history news update from about.com:
1950–first organ transplant performed, first “Peanuts” comic strip published
1951–color tv introduced
1952–seat belts in cars introduced, Queen Elizabeth ascends to the throne
1954–segregation ruled illegal in the U.S.
1955–Disneyland opens, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat
1957–Dr. Seuss publishes The Cat in the Hat, Sputnik launched
1958–LEGO bricks introduced
1959–The Sound of Music opens on Broadway
The Newbery Medals awarded this decade are:
1950–The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli
1951–Amos Fortune, Free Man, by Elizabeth Yates
1952–Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes
1953–Secret of the Andes, by Ann Nolan Clark
1954–…And Now Miguel, by Joseph Krumgold
1955–The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong
1956–Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
1957–Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen
1958–Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith
1959–The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Caldecotts for the decade include:
1950–Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi
1951–The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous
1952–Finders Keepers, by Will and Nicolas
1953–The Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward
1954–Madeline’s Rescue, by Ludwig Bemelmans
1955–Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1956–Frog Went A-Courtin’, retold by John Langstaff, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky
1957–A Tree Is Nice, by Janice Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont
1958–Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey
1959–Chanticleer and the Fox, by Barbara Cooney
Petunia, by Roger Duvoisin (1950): Petunia is a silly goose, and she believes she has become wise because she is now in the possession of a book. She acts so wise and holds her head so high that the other animals begin to come to her for advice, and she doles it out (much of it completely ridiculous) confidently. When her advice leads to a dangerous and painful situation for her and all her friends, Petunia realizes that she is not actually wise. She then realizes that simply having a book does not make her wise but that reading it might, so she sets out to learn to read so she can be truly wise and help make her friends happy. BoyChild was able to see the humor in Petunia’s poor advice, and the reminder that wisdom can come from the knowledge found in books was the perfect ending for a picture book.
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren (1950): Swedish author Lindgren’s Pippi is far from the typical orphan girl in so many of the other stories I’ve reviewed. She has Anne’s spunkiness and red hair, but she is by no means similar to her in other ways! Firstly, Pippi lives alone and insists that her father, a lost sea captain, is actually living as a cannibal king somewhere. She is almost Mad Hatter-esque in the way she goes about her days (or maybe Cat in the Hat-esque!), and she is abnormally physically strong and athletic as well as extremely independent. She is a source of constant excitement for Tommy and Annika, the well-behaved children who live next door with their parents. She is shockingly and innocently indecorous, and she has a horse who lives on her porch. What’s not to love? I dressed as Pippi for Halloween when I was in third grade, complete with stick-out red pigtails (thanks to a well-padded hanger bent around my head and red hair spray) and a patchy blue dress. GirlChild got a copy of the book for Christmas this year and loves it, too!
Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White (1952): This children’s classic received a Newbery Honor in 1953. With both an animated and live-action screen version produced (and probably more of which I’m unaware), Charlotte and Wilbur are pretty well known. There are references in other books (I specifically remember the titular character in The Great Ideas of Lila Fenwick dressing as Charlotte for Halloween…which I then also did!) and media as well. (My children go around singing the “Smorgasbord” song that Templeton sings in the animated movie…) Definitely a lasting story!
Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary (1955): This isn’t the first book that Beverly Cleary published in the 1950s (that was Henry and Beezus in 1952), but I’d argue that it’s her most memorable! This is the book where we really get to know Ramona and her imagination, persistence, and roundabout logic. She is so very real, imperfections and all, that it’s easy to either see yourself or your child in her place as you read, and then you can really feel empathy for this little misunderstood person with her quirky ways and exasperated family. GirlChild first started reading these books in kindergarten (with the assistance that hearing them on audiobook
Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak (1957): This book is tagged as an I Can Read! book, but I’m not sure which level–probably level 1, beginning reading. The short, simple sentences, familiar words, and repetition help make this the kind of book that might be a child’s first real reading conquest. (It would also be a fun book for a parent to use to cuddle up with their own Little Bear to read along.) Little Bear is a little silly and has a big imagination. His mother is both indulgent of his whims (she makes him a hat, coat, and snow pants one day, for Pete’s sake!) and the voice of reason in his daily imaginings. This is definitely a classic early reader!
Sammy the Seal, by Syd Hoff (1959): I picked this one up because there is still an old copy of it at my parents’ house for the grandchildren to read! Sammy is a seal at the zoo, but he wants to know what goes on outside. Because he has been a well-behaved seal, the zookeeper tells him he can go look. Sammy travels around the city and eventually ends up at school (where he learns to read and write…in one day). When the day is done, he heads back home to the zoo because “there’s no place like home.” This is an I Can Read! beginning reading (level 1) book, and there are a few short, simple sentences on each page of bright illustrations. The story isn’t exactly rich literature, but it was obviously well-loved at my house when I was a child since I remember it and it made the cut when my mom was culling down her book collection!
The Rescuers: a fantasy, by Margery Sharp (1959): I didn’t get around to reading this one, but it is the basis for the popular The Rescuers movie by Disney, so I’m familiar with the characters. The illustrations are done by the prolific Garth Williams, and the characters seem a little more mouse-like in their appearance than in the movies. I’m going to give this one to GirlChild to try; it might be a little on the tough side for her, particularly since it’s an older book with older cultural references, but I think she’ll enjoy it!
My Side of the Mountain, by Jean [Craighead] George (1959): I read this book a thousand years ago (more or less…probably less), so the details are kind of sketchy in my mind, but I clearly remember Frightful the falcon and the fact that this was voluntary survivalism, not forced (like in Hatchet, which also features a young teenage boy in the Canadian wilds), so it’s a little less intense. It is written in first-person, mostly as Sam, the young protagonist, is thinking back on his experiences while he is sheltering from a snowstorm, and I would recommend it for upper elementary students; it might be a little unwieldy for younger, less experienced readers, and it will be best understood by children who have some interest in or interaction with the outdoors. (Sam himself is inexperienced in self-sufficiency at first, and he learns from the locals and others who pass through the woods on his grandfather’s farm where he chooses to live.) It is a Newbery Honor Book as well.
I won’t summarize the Newbery winners that I believe to still have classic appeal, but The Witch of Blackbird Pond is definitely a book that continues to deserve new readership as the decades progress, and I personally loved Miracles on Maple Hill as a child. And here are the corresponding book lists from What We Do All Day, both chapter and picture books (so sad that I forgot about Half Magic)!