Friday, March 28, 2008

Book note: Sadie Rose and the Impossible Birthday Wish, by Hilda Stahl

I live in an old house. There are 18 inches of hanging space in the closet in the main bedroom, and an extravagant 21 to 22 inches in the second bedroom, which was added on years later. It's a good reminder that until recently most Americans (as I understand it) didn't have but a handful of clothes at any given time, especially of the sort that warrants hanging carefully on a hanger.

If you don't live in an old house, you can get the same message from reading old books, or books with historical themes. I recently read Sadie Rose and the Impossible Birthday Wish. The copyright is 1992, but the setting is pioneer Nebraska. Sadie Rose, the heroine, is coming up on her 13th birthday. Spoilers follow. She has two dresses, an everyday one and a good one. The good one is too small for her. For her birthday, what she wants, but the family can't really afford, is hair ribbon. Not a lot. Just enough for her two braids. One set of two ribbons, in other words. On her birthday, she gets her first "long dress," one about ankle length, made over from a dress someone else wore. She gets a few other things, but oh, those ribbons seem impossible. Spoilers end.

This is Book 9 in a series. I haven't read the others, but found that this one held up just fine as a stand-alone. It's Christian fiction, aimed at 9 to 12-year-olds, with a view of teaching them about patience and compassion. Sadie Rose and company manage to get into enough adventures and misunderstandings to keep it from being syrupy, and it's got some nice historical tidbits (OK, how would you keep dirt from falling out of a sod roof into food on the table? Did you ever think of that being a potential problem in a soddy?) but it's still in that class of Christian fiction that some people find too focused on the acquisition of virtue. (Or, at least, it felt a bit too much that way for me, perhaps I should say.) Still, it's better than many, and Sadie Rose is no wimp, bless her heart, and she's a likeable kid, but not perfect by any stretch.

I'm open to recommendations for other kidlit, both Christian and secular, that shows how people routinely used to get by with far less stuff than is generally considered normal today, not to mention far less entertainment, etc., but didn't whine about it. Suggestions?

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