I hope you all don't mind a bit of a catch up post! These past two weeks of summer reading have been delightful—in addition to these vintage reads, I dove into a new early reader, a recently-released adult historical fiction and a soon-to-be-released adult historical fiction, all of which I plan on sharing with you soon. I haven't done too much besides read, as after the non-stop pace of play rehearsals and long daily drives for the musical my children were in, my body decided to force me to give it a rest. Luckily sick days are good reading days!
For week three of the Vintage Kidlit Summer reading challenge I'm hosting with Anna Rose Johnson, the theme was Magical Adventures. We actually both chose to read Half Magic, by Edward Eager. As one commenter on Instagram pointed out, this book is a book-lover's dream, as old favorite stories are woven into the plot and environment of the story. After just a few pages, I was ready to dive into E. Nesbit again—and maybe I will, later this summer!
For week four, I re-read Emily's Runaway Imagination, which I now think may be Beverly Cleary's most underrated book. I love the episodic style and historical setting (she wrote it as historical fiction, unlike her Henry/Beezus/Ramona stories). I love the little vignette scenes as well as the drama of the biggest plot point: can Emily and her mother bring a library to small-town Oregon?
What surprised me most, not having read this since I was about ten, was one very important and understated theme in this story: racism. Not exactly what you'd expect from a Beverly Cleary novel, right? And yet I found that Emily's experiences relating to her elderly Chinese neighbor had a ring of authenticity and courage. At the beginning of the story, Emily is afraid to take the road that goes by Fong Quock's house—not, as you might expect, because she is afraid of the Chinese man, but because she is afraid of herself. She has a hard time understanding his accent, as he is the only Chinese person she has ever met, and she is afraid she will hurt his feelings if she misunderstands. She's also honestly afraid of embarrassing herself because of her misunderstanding, which I also find very relatable—how often are our intentions totally pure? Throughout the story, Emily always speaks of Fong Quock with respect and admiration, but her fears almost make her miss out entirely on the chance to connect with him in a genuine way.
Now, like many vintage books, Emily falls into a few stereotypical depictions of Chinese that I'm sure modern readers may justifiably object to. In these cases, I like to take Mitali Perkin's advice and read more widely, to get a more full and nuanced view of any pinpointed time and place. Certainly Emily's experiences with her Chinese neighbor seem honest and good-hearted…but what would the point of view of a Chinese immigrant in 1920's Oregon look like? How would his version of the story look different? Maybe you all can help me out there. Do you readers have any good recommendations for stories of Chinese immigrants to the Northeast U.S. in the 20's?
This week, we're moving on to A Book in a Series—which pretty much encompasses about 80% of my favorite vintage books, so I'm having a hard time choosing. Any must-read series on your lists of favorites?
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!