This is my first time to join Susanna Leonard Hill‘s Perfect Picture Book Friday. Fats has been very kind enough to share her thoughts during the past three weeks (see her reviews on Madeline and Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter and The Heart and the Bottle). Now, it’s my turn to share a recent favorite of mine with the lovely and affirming PPBF group. It is perfect as well for our current bimonthly theme on Girl Power and Women’s Wiles.
Story by: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter
Reading Level: Ages 3-10
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books, New York (2009)
Reading Level: Ages 3-8 and above
Genre: Fiction, picture book
Themes: Girl power, courage, daring, history, preservation of historical sites, budding historians, father-daughter bond, autonomy and independence of thinking
Opening Lines: “Liddleville, New Hampshire, was small – so small it wasn’t even a speck on the state map. Still, Liddleville was home to a village green, a general store, a three-legged cat, and a little girl named Imogene Tripp.”
Synopsis: Imogene is a budding historian whose first words as a baby were “Four score and seven years ago.” She has taken it upon herself to renovate, refurnish, and redecorate the Liddleville Historical Society “a centuries-old house stuffed with dusty antiques” to share this overflowing passion about all things historical to the townsfolk who apparently could not make heads nor tails of this young exuberant girl. Things become complicated when a notice was suddenly put up with an announcement that this historical site would be ruthlessly torn down so that a shoelace factory (which will put their little town “on the map”) could be built in its place. And thus, began Imogene’s quest to save history: there were flyers, picket fences, red-white-blue ribbons tied “around every tree, streetlight, stop sign, parking meter, mailbox fire hydrant, bike rack, baby stroller, and dog collar in town.”
Evidently, this was a cause that Imogene gladly took upon herself with admirable zeal and heartfelt passion – as she continually quotes historical figures in her impassioned extemporaneous speeches around town. Whether or not she succeeded in her advocacy, I shall leave for you to discover.
Why I like this Book: What is not to like about a girl whose aspirations and ideals are bigger than her entire being, nay, the whole town even! Between a shoelace factory and an important historical edifice, it technically should be a no-brainer for townsfolks – yet, there are metaphoric layers here that could be gleaned at the deliberate humor and absurdity. It speaks volumes about the things adults value and the sparkling truths that children can see quite clearly.
I also enjoyed the fact that the father was always there to continually and quietly support Imogene – driving her around, cleaning up with her – not really saying much, just a background character who provides groundedness and a solid sense of support that goes beyond mere indulgence, but translucent faith in his daughter’s unyielding soul.
Juxtaposed against the Mayor’s condescension and townspeople’s indifference – is Imogene’s passion to follow what Eleanor Roosevelt said in her ‘immortal words’ – “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Imogene’s uncompromising and immovable spirit has reminded me that there are indeed things worth fighting for.
Teacher Resources: Teachers would have a field day with this particular book as it comes with historical tidbits found in the front and back page – ranging from Vietnam War Protesters to Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Here is a list of suggested activities that Westwood Bales has come up with as part of their Character Counts! Citizenship Activities – it includes taking field trips, history wax museums, and creating genealogies. This fabulous wikispace by the 2011 bluebonnet-book-club provides a list of extension activities that can be done in the classroom: it also contains a downloadable pdf link as Teachers’ Guide, and a downloadable pdf link of printable quotation cards from the book. Suzy Red has also compiled a list of helpful resources and research links that would be good supplementary materials to the book. Enjoy!
About the Author and Illustrator (taken from the jacketflap).
In third grade, a bewigged Candace Fleming won her school’s Halloween costume contest dressed as Betsy Ross, and her passion for history has only grown since then. She is the author of The Great and Only Barnum; The Lincolns, which was a Junior Lirary Guild Selection; and Ben Franklin’s Almanac and Our Eleanor, both ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Books. Her books also include Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, Gabriella’s Song, and The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School.
Nancy Carpenter has illustrated books about many of Imogene’s favorite
things including the Oregon Trail (Apples to Oregon, by Deborah Hopkinson, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book), Abraham Lincoln (Abe Lincoln: The Who Loved Books, by Kay Winter), and audacious girls (17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore, by Jenny Offill, and Loud Emily, by Alexis O’Neill). Nancy Carpenter also illustrated Fannie in the Kitchen, by Deborah Hopkinson, and M is for Mischief by Linda Ashman. Nancy lives in Brooklyn, New York.
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 32 of 35
PictureBook Challenge Update: 45 of 120