Library Note: One of the stranger things I do for my job is to sing on the morning announcements, ostensibly when there are more overdue books than there should be. It's such a funny thing-- 6th graders think it's awesome and the 8th graders think it's horrible and scream and thrash around. Except for the 8th graders who go to the high school first period-- they are sad that they can't hear me. I'm sure I alarm visitors frequently with my vast repertoire-- Just Let a Book Be Your Umbrella, R-E-A-D- ING spells Reading, The Overdue Blues.
This is a long way of justifying why I have just spent half an hour perfecting my parody of One Direction's Up All Night for Friday. I have back up singers and everything. I'll see if we can get it recorded so I can post it. Next up: Katy Perry's "I'm a librarian and you're gonna hear me ROAR!"
There was a nice post over at From the Mixed-Up Files by Uma Krishnaswami about Multicultural books, and how that is not the best term for the books. She favors instead *Books With Cultural Contexts*. Since I try to keep up with the latest terminology (and really, it just takes one blink to get behind), we'll go with that for today, especially since the following book has bits of French, Quaker, and African American slave culture in it.
Higgins, Joanna. Waiting for the Queen
August 20th 2013, Milkweed Editions
Nominated for the Cybils by publisher/author
In 1793, a young French aristocrat, Eugenie, comes to a small riverside settlement with her family and other wealthy families who were chased out of France by the Revolution. They have come to the US for asylum and hope that Marie Antoinette will soon flee and join them. The conditions are nothing like what they are used to-- rough log cabins are the GOOD lodgings, but Eugenie at first refuses to sleep on the floor and is infuriated when the Quaker girl, Hannah, who is serving her family speaks to her and refuses to curtsy. Hannah and her father and brother are working for the French in order to earn money to buy their own farm, and Hannah misses her mother and siblings sorely, so she is not willing to put up with the further indignity of curtseying to people who think they are her betters. It could be worse for both girls-- at least the are not Estelle, the slave of the cruel Monsieur Rouleau. Even though both the French and the Quakers are against slavery, Rouleau is in a legal gray area and they all feel powerless to legally help the slaves. Hannah does her best to be understanding of the family, and eventually Eugenie realizes how useless her life is. Her father takes to the new American ways with relish, but her mother fears for their social standing once the queen arrives if he sinks to making furniture and doing other manual labor. Despite this, Eugenie learns to cook, clean, and eventually even empties out chamber pots. The plight of Estelle becomes so dire that the girls, despite their lack of shared language, come up with a plan to try to save her. In the end, it is clear that the queen will not be coming, and that the way of life that Eugenie and her family have known is no more.
Strengths: This was a well researched and fascinating story about a tiny bit of American history of which I had never heard. Eugenie's evolution is dramatic but makes perfect sense. Admittedly, I was swayed a bit by her small dog, Sylvette, who is occasionally in peril in the New World. This one really stuck with me. The juxtaposition between the French aristocracy and the Quakers in the rough, Pennsylvania countryside was enthralling.
Weaknesses: Tiny print and a true-to-period but unexciting cover make this one that I will have trouble purchasing because students will not pick it up. Like most librarians, I adore historical fiction and do everything I can to push it, but it's difficult.