Tuesdays with Ana: Remembering classics from childhood (and two book reviews)

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. 😀

from Jean Little’s website

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. 😀 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?

Happy Tuesday!

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17 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: Remembering classics from childhood (and two book reviews)

  1. Liz says:

    Last week I read the “Those Miller Girls” trilogy…if you could call it that, by Alberta Wilson Constant. They were favorites of mine when I was a kid, about sisters growing up in Kansas.

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  2. Katie says:

    How I LOVED the Jean Little books growing up, Ana! 🙂 They had quite a few of them in our school library. I loved the one that you mentioned but I also loved ‘Home From Far’, ‘One to Grow On’ and others too. I remember reading them over and over again. Wonderful memories to think about.

    I just finished ‘Show Me, Baby’ by Cherise Sinclair. I love all of her books. I am currently reading Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister. It has been on my bedside table as I have come and gone this summer. I pick it up, read a bit and then forget to grab it as I journey around. It is a moving and great read so far. Thanks for sharing Ana! This took me back in time a bit. 🙂 Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I haven’t read those two, but I read the two I mentioned in elementary school. I loved Mine for Keeps so much that I got it as a high school graduation gift. I think the world would be better if everyone read more children’s classics. 😀

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  3. abby says:

    I was…am..an avid reader. My family never had to wonder where i was if they could not find me…i was reading. I never heard of the ‘Little Books’. I will have to try one.
    At the moment i an reading our book club selection for this month…Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall. We have a rule, if you are not enjoying the book, you only have to read as many pages as your age…we all have to read over 50! I am was past that on this book.
    hugs abby

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I love that rule! I used to finish every book, like it or not. Since ebooks have become widespread, I don’t do that anymore. There are too many books I like to bother with ones I don’t.

      Reading keeps a girl out of trouble. Unless she gets in trouble for reading when she should be doing her work. 😀

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  4. awesomesub says:

    Hi Ana, I never heard about Jean Little and Mine for Keeps before, but it sounds very much like a book I’d love to read. As usual, the German amazon is peculiar, so I’ll have to get it elsewhere. My childhood favourites were almost all Astrid Lindgren books, especially the Pippi Longstocking stories.

    Even before I could read my mom read the moomintroll stories to me, written by Tove Jansson. They are a little bit surreal, but I read them again about two years ago and still found them absolutely charming and positive. The characters are rather unconventional, but show a wide range of character traits and I always found them very lively. They may be children’s stories, but contain a lot of wisdom. The stories in spring and summer are far more lighthearted than those about autumn and winter. In some parts, she describes the circle of life connected to the four seasons, in a suitable way for children.

    Currently, I am reading ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ by La Leche League and ‘Baby Led Weaning’ by Gill Rapely. I got the recommendation from Jan (an English Rose). Story-wise I am still dealing with the Zion Covenant series. Slowly, very slowly, moves/reads the garden snail. You have definitely started something there!

    hugs

    Nina

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You know, there must be a good German market for secondhand books. I hope you can get this one.

      Pippi! Ah, I loved her. I didn’t find out about the Moomin books until adulthood. They are silly and fun.

      I am glad you are enjoying the Zion Covenant. You’re making me want to find secondhand copies of my own to re-read. In all of my moves, I had to give away those books. Good luck with your baby education!

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  5. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…had never heard of any of these books…thanks for the reviews…am always sending books to my grands so now I have some lovely ones to send them!

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

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  6. Michael says:

    Hiya Ana. I never read “Mine for Keeps” but it sounds like a book with life lessons for both children and adults. Thanks for the tip.

    I love the sound of the baseball book you are reading and will check it out. I am a big baseball fan – unfortunately my team is the New York Mets – and love reading about baseball’s rich history. I am also currently reading a baseball book, “The Glory of Their Times” by Lawrence Ritter. Or rather rereading it for the third time. It is about the early days of baseball told to the author by the then surviving players. I read it every few years not just for the baseball history but the history of the country itself as the men reminisce about the times of steam and coal locomotives, gaslight street lamps and young men, boys really, playing baseball for town or factory teams where more often than not word of mouth would lead to a tryout with a major league team and a job in a profession which was looked down upon back then in the early 1900s. If you like baseball you will love this book.

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      The book, which I purchased in a secondhand shop, is available online for a pittance. Ah well, at least my copy was in good condition. Have you read Moneyball? I admit that it diminished my enjoyment of professional baseball, but it’s a good book. I like the description of the book you’re reading. I’ll have to check it out. 😀

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  7. Roz Harrison says:

    Hi Ana, I haven’t read any of Jean Little but this sounds like such a wonderfully inspirationalbook with lots of ggreat life lessons. Thank you for the heads up. My grandmother was Sarah and everyone called her Sally.

    Hugs
    Roz

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It’s funny…when I read the book as a child I had no idea why Sally’s mother called her Sarah. To me, they were completely different names. I suppose earlier generations had to come up with nicknames to distinguish from the fifteen Sarahs and Margarets and Elizabeths. 😀

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