Saturday, April 17, 2010

Readers' Challenge: A Time for Courage by Lasky

A Time for Courage: the Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, part of the Dear America series by Kathryn Lasky, paints a very intimate and well-researched look of life of a teenage daugther of a Suffragette living in Washington, D.C. in 1917.

Not only is this Kat Bowen's life in an upheaval over the rights of women to vote, and the sufferings her mother and her family go through to achieve this right, but "The Great War" starts. Kat Bowen just wants to share banana splits with her cousin and best friend, Alma, but even that ritual is shattered as Alma is torn from her side by her father who fears the suffragettes and by World War I, since Alma runs away to become a nurse at the age of 14.

Kat weathers these events by sewing banners for the suffragettes, growing a liberty garden, playing hockey at her "progressive" girls school, and writing her mother letters while her mother is in prison. She excels at Latin to please a teacher, and makes a new friend, whose last name Wilhem, has led to harrassment at school.

Kathryn Lasky, the author, is an amazing and prolific children's author who has written over a hundred books ranging from fantasy, to history, to picture books. This book, like so many others written by her, was read by my oldest daughter first, and then me. We can find most of her books at the library. Some of the other series by her that we like are: the Camp Princess series, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, and a new wolf series (name slipping right now).

For those of you who know my Christian, conservative views, I have to say that Kathryn Lasky does not necessarily write things that fall under those headings, but she writes well and for the most part creates fun, educational and interesting characters with strong attributes. Only one little section of the above book stood out to me as slightly disagreeable, and I discussed it with my daughter.

"I think people lie a lot, not really to deceive or mislead, just to get over these rough spots. There are a lot of rough spots these days. I know that Father is very worried about Mother. I know he really does not think she should be out there every day for such long hours in the cold. I know he thinks woman's suffrage is probably a nice thing but wishes women had never had the idea. But he never really says these things. I think people often lie for love." (p.26,)

Part of the reason I felt sensitive about the above passage is that I have seen deceit being shown as a good/acceptable quality trait for heroes and heroines in Juvenile and YA literature, and so when I read anything about deceit, the red flag flies up in my mind. The character in this passage is trying to make sense of all that is happening in her life, and she does so with a great deal of insight, however, I was afraid for a moment that deceit was going to be portrayed as an acceptable part of life. Thankfully it does not become a large part of the novel, although Kat's cousin Alma does lie to her dad about working on homework when she is really sewing suffragette banners.

Although there are a number of spoilers in what I've written, there is even more plot, character and action packed into this book that you might enjoy reading. I highly recommend reading it for a good historical novel, either on your own or with a girl whose age ranges from upper elementary through high school.

Tomorrow's book will be one of the following: The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, or Noah's Ark - the Lucy Cousins version. These are all old favorites in our household, and then after those, I have to find one that my youngest has recently read that isn't too long to read in a day. She likes to read some 300+ page lengthy novels sometimes, and then sometimes she reads a 120 page book about fairies. I need one of those short ones for this challenge.

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