Thursday, October 25, 2012

Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison

Title:  Indian Captive:  The Story of Mary Jemison
Author:  Lois Lenski
Approximate independent reading level:  8th grade

Summary:  Almost twenty years before the Revolutionary War, the Jemison family lived on the frontier of America.  Mary, also called Molly, lives in a log cabin with her parents and five siblings.  Although some of the neighbors have decided to return east because of worry about the Indians, Molly's father is sure his family is safe enough and plans on staying to plant his corn.  But the Indians arrive the next morning and take most of the family captive, although the two older brothers are able to escape to tell the neighbors.  Molly and a young neighbor boy are separated from the rest of their families and hurried away by one group of Indians.  She is taken to live with a tribe of Seneca Indians to replace a tribe member who was killed.  The story that follows describes her first year with the Senecas, as she attempts to escape, learns their rituals, and tries to discover how or even whether a white girl can live with the Indians.

Review:  Molly Jemison actually lived, and the events in this story actually happened, although the author does take some liberties with timing.  The author is authentic to Seneca culture and to Molly's experience.  I think this could be an interesting as well as an informative read on the Seneca Indians and on what it might be like to be completely alone in a strange place with strange people, ripped from family.
****  Four stars

Monday, October 8, 2012

If You Give series

Titles:  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; If You Give a Moose a Muffin; If You Give a Pig a Pancake; If You Take a Mouse to School; If You Give a Pig a Party
Author:  Laura Numeroff
Illustrator:  Felicia Bond

Summary:  There are five books in this cute little series.  Each starts with a child engaging in the title activity, which seems to be simple and straightforward.  But each begins a chain of events that is as funny as it is both exhausting and messy, and which eventually runs full circle.  

Review:  I don't remember which of these books I first found on the bookshelf of the daycare or home I was working at, but I do remember thoroughly enjoying it.  So when I found a boxed set with more books than I was aware of on the shelf at a local secondhand children's shop for just a few dollars, I just couldn't resist buying it.  The story lines are simple and easy to follow, while also providing an opportunity to engage young children.  "What do you think will happen next?" can be asked often throughout these stories, as well as "What would you do if . . .?" This second question can be asked both in reference to the child in the story or in reference to the animal (If someone gave you a cookie, what would you want to go with it?)  
The pictures are beautifully done, without unnecessary details, but still allowing for engaging reading.  For example, in If You Give a Pig a Party, a hide-and-seek scene suggests a game of "Can you find Pig and her friends?"  
Well-drawn pictures and a catchy, repetitive storyline work together to make these books great read-alongs for young children.  I give them all four stars.

Bonus:  Guess who two of the guests are at Pig's party.  :)