WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement, Oct. 2023
"a pinecone suit of armor"
The WRB CLS turns one this week! In honor of the occasion, we have books about birthdays included below. Thinking about birthdays also has Sarah thinking about names—the name “Euclid” particularly, and you should read on to find out why. Book characters are a funny lot when it comes to names. There’s plain and simple “Anne” from Anne of Green Gables (who wishes she was a Cordelia), there’s the exotic “Bathsheba” from Far from the Madding Crowd (the title is not, as Sarah used to think, Far from the Maddening Crowd), and then there’s the whimsical “Chrysanthemum” from Kevin Henkes’s book of the same name. Sometimes, we don’t learn a character’s name until halfway through a book, as happens in Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars, and discovering that name rocks us to our core. Names, when we truly think about them, are powerful words indeed.
Perhaps you need inspiration for a name, or perhaps you just need a fall picture book recommendation. We have all that and more if you keep on reading. . . .
She can’t find it now, but Sarah read a piece not long ago about Anne of Green Gables (the character specifically). In effect, the essay claimed that Anne wasn’t a good mother, and Sarah felt personally insulted. After a bit more musing, while she still doesn’t agree with the main premise, there is something to be said about the books detailing Anne’s mothering years.
Books one through five, and even a bit of book six, are wonderful because we’re still deep in the life of Anne herself. We read about her thoughts and actions, the people she is meeting, and the stories she’s hearing. Then suddenly, the last few books focus mainly on her children, and we lose sight of Anne. She becomes a shadow of her former self in a way, and we hear more about the housekeeper, Susan Baker, and her interactions with Anne and Gilbert’s children. Yes, her children have funny escapades, but we’re suddenly cut out of Anne’s life almost completely, which is startling after we’ve spent so much time growing up with her.
Regardless, October is the perfect month in which to read or reread this series. Anne is a friend no child should miss out on having, so consider making the first book a read-aloud.
A fish named Euclid
Mrs. H, Sarah’s sister, is a teacher extraordinaire. Besides teaching high-school classes on art and science, she also teaches Euclidian geometry. She recently petitioned the school to get a classroom fish, and they obliged—so Classroom 1 now proudly sports a purple beta fish named Euclid Gilbert Chesterton. He is a fish with a fascinating history, which is included here:
Euclid began his academic career not long after birth, but his path to Chesterton was anything but linear. Rejecting the common notion that bettas are merely decorative, he set out to demonstrate his superb intelligence and spent his early days as a young betta fry shaping his mathematical and philosophical understanding. In his adolescence, he experienced an apparent career setback when he was transferred to Petco, but the long hours on the shelf allowed him time to ponder life’s greatest mysteries from a new angle. This made him the perfect candidate for Chesterton Academy of St. Joseph’s first pet. He now lives in Classroom 1 and spends most of his time judging freshmen and offering hints during tests.
(Extra points to any reader who spots all the geometry puns hidden in the bio.)
Below is a range of charming picture books all set in or focused on the season of fall.
Four Friends in Autumn by Tomie dePaola (2004)
Time for Cranberries by Lisl H. Detlefsen (2015)
For the Love of Autumn by Patricia Polacco (2008)
Autumn Story by Jill Barklem (1980)
Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor (1938)
Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky (1993)
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