Monday, August 18, 2008
For Newbery readers, the 1950s could very well be considered the beginning of the Golden Age of the Newberys. This is where we begin to see the classics of children's literature getting their due: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Old Yeller (Honor Book), Charlotte's Web (Honor Book), The Wheel on the School, and The Door in the Wall are just several examples of the impressive quality of children's literature during this era.
Ginger Pye won the coveted Medal in 1952, but it seems to be overshadowed by its friends from 1950s. Which is too bad, because it is a delightful and charming story, with clever humor that isn't dated or too precious. It just doesn't have the drama and pathos of The Witch of Blackbird Pond or the two more famous animal books of the era, Old Yeller and Charlotte's Web.
Although the Pye family might be unusual, having the youngest mother in the neighborhood (based on the fact that she married at 17, she's probably no older than 27), the youngest uncle (three year old Uncle Benny, who is called as such and refers to himself as Uncle Benny), and having a famous bird expert for a father, they're not unusual in their love for their new dog. Ginger, The Intellectual Dog, is a hard-earned dog, having cost all of $1.00. Ginger has many little adventures, including one in which she appears at the children's school with pencil in mouth (based upon a childhood experience of Eleanor Estes). Everything is going just grand until Ginger disappears! The children frantically search, but months go by without Ginger ever appearing.
Amusing aspects of 1950s life (Karo syrup on bread as a snack) and not so amusing aspects of 19050s life (German measles) are woven throughout the book, but without puzzling the modern reader. Given the fact that Ginger Pye was written as a contemporary novel, the fact that the book reads as timeless as it does points to the quality of the book. Fans of books that capture an "innocent" quality of life will enjoy this book (Estes's other novels are just as enjoyable).