Monday, July 07, 2008

I'm A Little Confused

If I ever write a picture book, I want it to be illustrated the way Matt Faulkner illustrates Laurie Halse Anderson's Thank You, Sarah.His artwork is realistic but witty. It pops and carries some of the story.

The text of the book is a little confusing for this reader, though. Thank You, Sarah is the story of how Sarah Josepha Hale managed to get Thanksgiving recognized as a national holiday. That is an interesting take on a Thanksgiving book. Seriously, just how many stories about Piligrims can a kid (or anyone else)take? But Hale comes across in this tale like one of those small town cranks, the sterotypical busybodies who nag and nag until they get what they want. I didn't see exactly how she was "bold, brave, stubborn, and smart," at least, in the context of this story.

In all fairness, kids may not know the nagging small-town gadfly stereotype and may not see it in Hale as she's portrayed here. The youngest readers (the publisher is marketing the book to grades K through 5) may very well appreciate the fact that someone created a holiday for us.

At the end of the book are four pages of an odd assortment of information. The information about Thanksgiving and Hale is appropriate and intereting, but then there's the equivalent of a page on the Civil War that seems out of place, even though Thanksgiving was finally made a holiday by Lincoln in 1863. I felt this section of the book could have been more focused.

Hale is a fascinating figure, having served as an editor of women's magazines back in their very early days. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, women's magazines definitely had an impact on American culture. They are supposed to have been influential in getting controls on patent medicines, for instance. Maybe Thank You, Sarah is a good introduction to Hale for very young children who can't be expected to have much interest in her more significant work, but I'm not sure.

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