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Newbery Pie

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April 2014

Shen of the Sea: The 1926 Winner

I’m finding myself feeling some of the same things I felt after I finished Tales from Silver Lands. I wasn’t in love with this book, but I did kind of enjoy reading it.

I think some of the harsh criticism it has gotten by some contemporary readers might be a little unwarranted. I’ve heard the racist word being thrown around a lot by reviewers, but I don’t necessarily think that it is racist. There were some characters who might have been buffoons, and some people might think that these people fit into old Chinese stereotypes, but there were also a lot of characters who were admirable and good. Racist is a strong word, and to say that Chrisman saw all Chinese people as inferior or even in a negative way would be, I think a false accusation.

Then there’s the issue of these stories being actual folklore. Most contemporary reviewers don’t seem to think that these stories are actual genuine Chinese folktales. I guess the question you have to ask is, how many people need to tell a story in order for it to be considered a folktale? No, Chrisman never visited China, but he claims to have collected these stories from Chinese immigrants. If even one Chinese immigrant was telling Chrisman these stories, and that person had received the story from someone back in China, then I don’t have any problem with these stories being labeled as folklore, even if they weren’t told widely throughout the Chinese region. 

It’s really easy for us to look back on the 20’s and think, “Those silly people of the past. Why would they even publish this? But they give it the Newbery award?” I think that contemporary people sometimes unfairly look at the citizens of the past in a condescending way. We think that if we had lived back then, we would have done things differently. The librarians and the Newbery committee of the 1920’s were awarding the book they thought was the best of the year for the kids of their time. This book made me laugh out loud several times. There were some really good stories here. There were some that dragged too, but for the most part. I am glad that I read it.

Next up: Smoky the Cowhorse. I’m not feeling very good about this one. I think it’s going to be a challenge.

The Return of Newbery Pie: Tales From Silver Lands the 1925 winner.

I don’t know how many times, we’ll stop and start this journey again, but for now I’m back on the Newbery path,and Jake has shown some interest in joining me. It might be a few weeks, before he is officially back though. After he reads  Tales From SIlver Lands, and writes his review, I’ll add it to mine.

For now, here’s my review of Tales From Silver Lands, by Charles Finger the 1925 and 4th Newbery Medal winner.

Tales from Silver Lands

I’ll just go ahead and say that I didn’t love this book by any means, but I do find myself wanting to defend it. I’ve read some harsh reviews from other Newbery travelers, and I honestly didn’t think it was THAT bad. Every place has its own set of folk and fairy tales, and honestly, I don’t think I had ever heard any from Central and South America. I think I’m better off now that I have. I know I’m probably not going to meet some guy from Brazil and strike up a conversation about the 400 dudes that killed those three giants any time soon, but I feel like I have a little better understanding or at the very least, a better appreciation for that culture now.

A lot of the tales, I had to labor through, but there were some bright spots (much like The Story of Mankind) I especially enjoyed the tale about the seal-like nose-less people. (It’s almost like Latin America has it’s own version of a Selkie, only a lot meaner) and the tale about the boy who only went outside at night, and the girl who only went outside at day. I also liked the Witch’s Magic Ball story.

For 1925, I think this was a decent Newbery pick. There wasn’t a whole lot else being published for children, I mean they couldn’t just give it to the new Dr. Dolittle book every year, could they? I think children of 1925, especially those obsessed with exploring, and adventure, would have found these tales intriguing. Kids and even adults today? Not so much

I give it 2 1/2 out of five Newbery pies.

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