Archive | September 2016

On His Own, On Their Way, and On a Mission

Fiction is such a rich field, I’d like to continue to showcase three more stories. All of them have a common thread: the sea.


Source: Author Photo/Wikipedia

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry (1940)

Mafata, the twelve year old son of a chieftain, was afraid of the sea. One day, he decided to conquer his fear so, he set out to the islands in his canoe with his only companion, Uri, his dog. A furious storm cast him on a remote island where cannibals came to make their sacrifices. Without help, Mafata managed to build shelter, get food, make clothing, and weapons. At the end of his journey, he returned home triumphant. Armstrong Sperry drew this story from a Polynesian legend from his great grandfather. The author lived in the South Seas for a time, giving his story an authentic background. He not only wrote, but illustrated the book.

In this chapter, “Drums,” Mafata uses his knowledge to make a new canoe, cooks food, makes a raft, and plans to hunt. His name means “boy who was afraid.” His resourcefulness and upbringing helped him to be independent. Mafata confronts a Hammerhead shark. What happens next was an act of Mafata’s faithfulness. Call it Courage is the 1941 Newberry medal winner.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
A Selection

Photo credit: Mark B. Gutterworth

The ship was the Hispaniola. The crew: Captain Smollett, Mr. Arrow, Mr. Trelawney,
Doctor Livesey, the squire, the parrot, Hawkins, and the ship’s hands, not to mention Long John Silver.
The drama, the adventure, the mystery of this action-packed story! Read it, mates.
It’s great fun.
And talking about great fun, it would have been great fun for Mr. Sperry to have met
Mr. Stevenson! They both lived in the South Seas.

 Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1943)
“Salt-Water Tea”



Another Newberry winner (1944) is Esther Forbes’ story. Johnny, a silversmith apprentice, suffers an accident that cripples his hand. Heartbroken over needing to give up a trade that he loved, he finds work as a courier for a patriotic newspaper. The year is 1773; the place, Boston. Johnny becomes a messenger for the Sons of Liberty.

The title to the chapter hints at Johnny’s role, along with his friend, Rab, with fulfilling a mission, nothing short of revolution.

These stories challenge us to go beyond ourselves. Because of them, we believe in achieving great accomplishments.

Courage, adventure, revolution—all life-changing events for anyone, but for a boy, especially so. Discover and rediscover these children’s classics.

Let’s Pretend!

I’m back from vacation so, let’s move on to a genre with many titles: the invention of truth, a vicarious experience that entertains, well-crafted imagination—in other words, fiction.

We parents, teachers, and librarians guide children to stories of adventure, thrills, problem-solving, sports, modern heroes, pets, and school life, according to their tastes. Along the way, children become aware of quality and the importance of how a good story should resemble life. After all, even invented truth needs to be credible.

With fiction, experienced young readers grow up to be adults prepared to read great classic novels such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Great Gatsby,
The Grapes of Wrath, Native Son, A Passage to India,
and The Sun also Rises. That’s our goal as teachers and guides. All of us, adult and child, are enriched and transformed by great literature. There are three classics, two fairly known and one obscure, that I’d like you to read, if you haven’t already.


Impunity Jane by Rumer Godden is the story of a British china doll. The doll was called Impunity by the shop woman who sold her to Effie, her first owner, for she could escape without harm. Effie simply called her Jane. Effie’s grandma carried Jane home in her top pocket. Impunity Jane had a great time seeing the world. Dolls have thoughts and feelings and, like people, speak. Yet, no one can hear them. Jane had many little girl owners through the years, but she met her match when she met Gideon, a boy who put her in his pocket. Together, Impunity and Gideon become partners and Ms. Godden deftly creates a scene where Impunity Jane earns her name.

 By the Great Horn Spoon! “Saved by a Whisker” by Sid Fleischman


Take the 1849 California Gold Rush, add a teen boy plus his aunt’s butler, throw in adventure and comedy and you have Sid Fleischman’s story about how Jack Flagg, the teen, went out to San Francisco with Praiseworthy, his aunt’s butler, to gain fortune for his impoverished aunt. Opportunity knocks in a strange way and once you read this book, you’ll understand the chapter title, “Saved by a Whisker.” The setting is authentic.






From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil. E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg introduces us to a little brother and a bossy, big sister and how they settled on running away to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Written in the mid-60’s, Claudia and Jamie do homework of a different kind—figuring out how to be on their own without getting caught or getting homesick while solving the mystery of what became of one of Michelangelo’s lost art.

So many wonderful inventions to dive into. We can visit so many stories.
Until next time, I wish you happy travels.