Wednesday, October 25, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday--Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life

33163371Tougas, Shelley. Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life
October 10th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from

Charlotte, her twin brother Freddy and half sister Rose are dragged from their home in Lexington, Kentucky to live in Walnut Grove, Minnesota because their mother is feeling called to write a book similar to the ones written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Charlotte's mother has always written but had other jobs, but has recently had a biography of Dr. Seuss published, and has enough money to write full time. The family rents out the basement of a house owned by Mia and Miguel, who live upstairs with their granddaughter, Julia. Charlotte has moved so many times that she is reluctant to learn the names of her fellow classmates or draw any attention to herself. After she is out sick at the very beginning of school, she starts to notice that her brother has made a lot of friends in her absence. Charlotte, however, is still uncomfortable and even fails a reading test so that she has to spend her lunch time doing remedial work. She hopes to win an essay contest about Wilder because the $500 would be helpful to her family, but Julia wins instead. The two girls start to volunteer at the Wilder museum, and start to become friends. Charlotte's mother is writing very little, and as the year progresses, starts to slip into a significant depression. Rose's father remarries, and Rose is devastated that he no longer schedules any of their visits together. When there is vandalism at the museum, Charlotte is blamed, but the real perpetrator is not any of the people who are suspected. Will Charlotte's family be able to stay in Walnut Grove, where they are beginning to feel at home, or will they have to move again?
Strengths: Aside from the thing that I found cool-- living in a town where Ingalls lived-- this had some factors that would appeal to middle grade readers. Being a new kid in a school is always a concern, and even students who have spent their whole lives in the same place worry about this a little bit. Charlotte's detachment is understandable and realistic, and her brothers success without her adds an interesting twist. I enjoyed the fact that Julia was at first painted as a "Nellie Olsen" character, but once Charlotte gets to know her, the two become friends. Rose's relationship with her absent father is well done. The mother's depression is not too dramatic. This was a quick read that kept up a good pace even though there was not a lot of action.
Weaknesses: There are a couple of times when the main objection to the original Wilder books (the treatment and discussion of Native Americans) could have been addressed, but was not given quite the attention that is needed. There is an interesting fact about language in the first edition where Wilder wrote "...there were no people. Only Indians lived there." but further printings, the word "people" was replaced with "settlers". Still, this is a large and ongoing objection to the books, and one that really should have been addressed more fully.
What I really think: My students won't read Wilder at all, and therefore would not be sold by the cover or title. While I was a huge fan of the books, I agree that they are problematic and do not recommend them, although I have not removed them from my library collection. At this point, I would be all for amending or removing the references to Native Americans in the narrative if the books could then be read as a first person exploration of the pioneer experience.

34014199Lauricella, Laura. Polly and Her Duck Costume
Illustrated by Jill Howarth
12 September 2017, Quarto Books

Polly is a young goat who has been born blind. She was adopted by Lauricella, who runs a rescue mission for disabled animals. While Polly responded well to her new environment, she was still anxious, and was calmed by being swaddled. This, of course, interfered with her playing with a new goat with damaged legs, Pippa, so Polly is fitted with a furry duck costume that mimicked the pressure of swaddling while allowing her to play. The sight of a goat in a duck costume is very amusing, and Polly becomes an internet sensation. Eventually, the costume starts to get in the way of whispering, laughing and snuggling with Pippa, so Polly is able to function without the costume.
Strengths: This certainly has several nice messages about caring, acceptance, and dealing with others. Lauricella must be a very nice person, and her dedication is admirable. The pictures are very delightful, and remind me of picture books from the 1960s for some reason.
Weaknesses: While this is a picture book, I wish that some of the good information about Goasts of Anarchy would have been included in the picture book portion.
What I really think:  I am not a nice person, and the goats I have met have not been particularly cute or personable, so my first thought that a blind goat with anxiety would be a pretty good candidate for stew.

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