Monday, March 10, 2014

Robber Girl by Margaret Wild & Donna Rawlins

This book by Margaret Wild is probably best suited to upper primary students due to the language which is heavily influenced by traditional literature and its themes of physical and emotional isolation. That's not to say that the book isn't accessibe to, or couldn't be enjoyed and unpacked by a younger audience; depends on their experience with literature I guess. The illustrations by Donna Rawlins place Wild’s tale in the deep and unrelenting winter of a pre-industrial Europe with Wild drawing on many familiar motifs from this time, notably the feral child, the stolen child and groups of three in terms of animals and events. The main character "the robber girl" yearns for human companionship, yet finally understands that a person cannot really enjoy or justify keeping what is not rightfully theirs. The story centres around a young girl who ekes out an existence in an untamed forest which is harsh and unforgiving during the long winter months. Her closets companions are a wise old bear, a wolf and an owl. Despite their protective and nuturing ways, she feels overwhelmed by lonliness during the dark wintery months and when a farmer's son, Josiah, strays far from the house one day, the "robber girl" is compelled to do what she does... 

"Robber girl" with her companions, old bear, fox and owl

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Mystery of the Woods by Mary Stolz

Rules are made to be broken? Well, not according to Grandfather Fanshaw. Young Will, his grandson, finds living by the daily rules and being obedient to the clock makes life somewhat repetitive and dull. This well meaning old gentleman's routines which include oatmeal for breakfast every morning and bedtime strictly at eight, would drive anyone out of their minds. 

All day long the clock directed activities in the house. The clock was a grandfather too, so Will figured he had two grandfathers, both of them telling him what to do.

Grandfather Fanshaw especially worries about the woods that surround his house and it is this irrational fear in some part drives his crazy rule-making ways. Suddenly one evening something really refreshing happens in their lives, a "mewowing" cat enters into their lives and the old bloke has to start thinking about doing somethings differently. Now truthfully this book, whilst containing some small philosophies about the drawbacks of being too rigid, probably wouldn't hold too many kids' attentions these days. I'll run it by some students in my class and see what they have to say about it. I did actually enjoy the illustrations by Polish artist Uri Shulevitz who is now  well known for his own stories, his award winning Snow, and his most recent Dusk.