Whenever I have a bad day, a classic children’s book (better yet, read out loud to a favorite child) cheers me up.
Novel, Penguin, 1962, 213 Pages
Born with cerebral palsy, nine-year-old Sally has spent the past five years at a special rehabilitation school. Her dreams of actually living with her family rather than just visiting them finally come true when a new school opens near her family’s home. Adjusting to her new life and the typical challenges of starting a new school and meeting new friends are heightened for Sally, through the unique problems of being handicapped in the world. Mine for Keeps is a heartfelt and inspirational story about overcoming fears and considering other people’s points of view. A compelling read, this popular children’s story imparts valuable lifelong lessons about the nature of change, friendship and family.
Mine for Keeps, published in 1962, is a book every child (or child at heart) should read. It’s unfortunately gone out of print (for now), but secondhand copies are available on Amazon and other retailers. In fact, there are 23 penny copies on Amazon. :D
In a side note, I loved her autobiography, titled Little by Little. I believe it is also out of print but available on secondhand book sites. In the autobiography, I learned two pieces of information that made me enjoy her books even more:
- Jean was legally blind and taught at a school for children with disabilities, and she wrote Mine for Keeps because she and her students were tired of Every Single Book turning into a “miraculous cure” story. She lists children’s books (such as The Secret Garden) that end with the child cured. How does that feel to a child (or adult) who will never experience a cure? I loved Mine For Keeps because it was a wonderful story, but I loved it even more when I found out her motivation for writing it. Surprisingly, 52 years later, the book only feels slightly dated (in its terminology, not storyline).
- Jean wrote her books by using a “talking computer,” way back in 1962! How neat that the words on my page were produced by special technology.
Mine for Keeps achieves a remarkable balance between educating and entertaining. Yes, the fathers in Jean’s stories tend to be a bit heavy-handed (Father Knows Best, for sure!), but they serve as compassionate, intelligent role models to children learning to grow up in a complicated world. What I love best is Sally’s capability and her parents’ refusal to let her wallow in self-pity. (Aside: I was confused about the “Sarah/Sally” distinction until college, when I learned that “Sally” is an old-fashioned nickname for “Sarah.”) Sally’s older sister, Mindy, is bossy and a know-it-all, while her younger sister, Meg, is prone to pouting. Older brother, Ken, needs to be taken down a peg or two, and in general the kids are rambunctious but well-meaning.
In particular, I love the scene where the father stands up for Sally’s right to do her own chores without her older sister’s well-intentioned but inappropriate interference. I have been in situations when people assumed I needed help (when I didn’t), and it made me both angry and ashamed. These small touches make the story stand the test of time. Sally might have cerebral palsy and have extra challenges navigating everyday life (and being mainstreamed into a school where she is the only one with an obvious physical disability), but her story goes far beyond Poor Little Disabled Girl. She has spunk, attitude, and an endearing mixture of faults. Even better, the resolution involves her taking charge.
I love, love, love Mine for Keeps, and I hope you will as well.
(I also love From Anna, by the same author, about a girl who moves to Canada and discovers her “awkwardness” is due to legal blindness that previously had gone undetected.)
Book review time!
Goodnight, Ark by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman, is a pleasant children’s picture book. The illustrations are quite nice, and the text encourages children to anticipate the next page. The rhymes and rhythms are a bit awkward for reading out loud, but it’s still a nice book. $15.99 hardcover, from Zonderkidz.
The Blessings of Friendship Treasury, by Mary Engelbreit, has some gorgeous illustrations reminiscent of the old-style Golden Books. I especially like that one girl (in a cheerful red gingham dress) pushes herself in a wheelchair while chatting with a friend and cat who walk beside her. There’s a nod to racial/ethnic diversity in the illustrations, which is not enough but a nice start. It would make a nice friendship gift or a gift for a young child.
(Disclaimer: These two books were provided as a review copy by HarperCollins)
From Ana’s Bookshelf:
I’m currently reading The Pictorial History of Baseball and Been There, Haven’t Done That: A Virgin’s Memoir. Well, I’m skimming the first one surreptitiously before sending it as a gift. Shh. :D The second was sent to me by a friend. The first one is an enormous collection of photos along with historical text, and the second is a rather insipid adolescent journal of a 25-year-old who feels she should impart her lifelong wisdom about her heavy petting escapades in high school and college.
What are you reading?