I gave a copy of the School Library Journal list of the 100 Best Children's Novels that Betsy Bird helped compile back in 2010 to one of my students, and while glancing over it, realized that while I really thought I had read all of the books, I had no memory of these two. Had to read them!
Goudge, Elizabeth. The Little White Horse
University of London Press, 1946
Maria Merryweather is an orphan, since her mother died when she was small and her soldier father recently passed away, leaving her with tremendous debts, but luckily with governess Miss Heliotrope, dog Wiggins, and a great uncle who can take her in. The carriage is a horrible shambles, but Maria takes an instant liking to Moonacre Manor and Sir Benjamin. Also amusing are Wrolfe, a lion like dog (Illustrations show a lion; I thought it was a dog?); Digweed, the man of all work, and the fractious cook and housekeeper, Marmaduke Scarlet, who is a dwarf. In the charming village, Maria meets Old Parson, Robin and Loveday Minette, and the other rosy-cheeked and cheerful inhabitants. She learns some secrets about her family, and realizes that they are partly to blame for the Black Men who inhabit the area and terrorize the residents. In general, though, life is mostly fairy cakes and cream teas, as well as enchanted animals, and Maria is able to return part of the manor to God and soothe the difficulties between the village and the Black Men.
Strengths: This was rather like Louisa May Alcott meeting Tolkien. The descriptions of clothing and meals, as well as the enchanted animals and family retainers made this rather delightful for me. It has been mentioned as a favorite fantasy book of many bloggers, and I can see why.
Weaknesses: A bit like gargling with honey. I know I've been saying that I want happier books, but Maria was so dang happy all the time that I want whatever she's on. It also made me positively itchy when Robin threw a fit when she said that she would marry a boy from London-- he wanted to marry her! And they eventually do get married, after everybody else in the book seems to. And she's 14. And Robin is a cousin of sorts. Things were different in the 1840s, I guess.
What I really think: Interesting to read, and I did enjoy it despite my snarkiness, but I wouldn't buy a copy for a school library.
DiCamillio, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
February 14th 2006 by Candlewick Press
Edward Tulane is the large china rabbit owned by Abilene. He has a custom wardrobe made by her grandmother, Peregrina, and waits for Abilene to come home each day, but he doesn't love anyone but himself. When the Tulanes travel from England to the US on a ship, Edward gets thrown overboard by some bad boys and ends up on the bottom of the ocean for almost a year. Relieved to be rescued, be ends up with a fisherman's family, then with a hobo and his dog, and finally Bryce and his very ill sister. When Edward is badly damanged, Bryce takes him to a repair shop, but the owner will only repair Edward if he can own him. Edward reflects back and realizes that he does love all of the people who have taken care of him, and at the end is reunited with one figure from his past after the dolls advise him to "open his heart".
Strengths: Moralistic tale with pretty pictures and a sentient toy. Good for fans of Rumer Godden, and for teachers who want read alouds.
Weaknesses: Rather on the sappy side-- we know that Edward will eventually learn to love.
What I really think: There are just some authors whose work doesn't jive with what I like to read, and DiCamillo is one. This seems too young for my students, and I can see why teachers like it, but it just wasn't for me.