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Take a look at three new picture books that can be used with a wide range of age groups.
In Caralyn and Mark Buehner's picture book Fanny's Dream (Dial, 1996 ISBN 0-8037-1697-1), we get a gentle, funny and warm story with echoes of a fairy tale. Fanny Agnes is a sturdy farm girl who dreams of marrying a prince, or at least the mayor's son. Convinced that, if it happened once, it can happen again, and ignoring the cruel taunts of her friends and relatives, Fanny waits in the garden in the moonlight for her fairy godmother to fix her up for the mayor's ball. Instead Heber, a short, kind farmer appears and asks for Fanny's hand. With a sigh, Fanny accepts and she and Heber share the work, the hardships and the laughter of their lives on the farm. Shortly after the third child arrives, Fanny stops in the moonlight of the melon patch to rest and her apologetic fairy godmother appears with promises of a new and princess-like existence, but Fanny chooses Heber and returns to their home. Talk about values! And you will, won't you?
Elsewhere on the internet you'll find:
A directory of Variants of Cinderella Stories at
This next book, although much more serious and set in a different time and place, has a bit in common with Fanny's Dream. Marianne has a dream of being reunited with her mother and also has to give it up and settle for something (or someone) else in Train to Somewhere - a picture book that can be used over a wide range of age groups by Eve Bunting and Ron Himler ( Clarion, 1996 ISBN 0-395-71325-0). From 1850 to the 1920s trains carried orphans and children whose parents could not or would not care for them to new homes on the Great Plains. It was a solution for the many abandoned and homeless children being left at orphanages or left to fend for themselves on the streets of the big cities in the east. Bunting focuses on one trainload and in particular one orphan to make the story more immediate.
Marianne boards the train in New York with fourteen other children and Miss Randolph, their caretaker, to be taken in by people in the country towns at which they stop. Marianne is older and knows she will be difficult to adopt since she's not cute or pretty. Those more physically appealing, younger children and the stronger older ones are taken first. At each town the children put on their most cheerful faces and each time there are fewer and fewer to reboard the train. Marianne clings to a chicken feather and the hope that her mother who promised to come back for her before leaving her at the orphanage will be waiting for her at one of the stops. Finally, it is Marianne alone who gets off the train at Somewhere with Miss Randolph. Standing at the station is an older couple who hold a wooden locomotive that they hoped to give to a little boy they would take home. However, they reach out to Marianne and we know it's a match as Marianne is lovingly embraced by her new family.
This is a tear-jerker, I warn you. I'm still trying to get through it without sobbing, but it can lead to an investigation of the orphan trains, to the study of the development of the Great Plains, or to a look at solutions to similar problems today.
See also the US History section of this site for related books.
Elsewhere on the internet you'll find:
Information about a book for adults on the subject of orphan trains at
If you liked James Stevenson's Mud Flat Olympics, you'll like Yard Sale. In an easy to read book, Stevenson gives us wonderful characters and his usual gentle humor. As the title suggests, the animals are holding a yard sale and, in short chapters, we zero in on the action. Simsbury bustles up to his junk-laden attic to get things for the sale but becomes so engrossed in the treasures up there that he never does make it to the sale. Super-salesperson Crocker sells a silent alarm clock to Henry even though it has no hands and few numbers, but Henry walks away delighted with his new treasure. Beth sells Matthew a footstool, claiming that it was once used by a prince, and Matthew likes it so much Beth wants it back. Margaret sells an accordion to Nick. Unfortunately, Clyde sold the other end of it to Myrna. Even readers far more capable than the readers this book is aimed at should enjoy the antics.
Readers wanting to take it further could get into a study of advertising and sales techniques, propaganda and its uses and abuses, or even organize their own fund-raising yard sale.
Mitsumasa Anno also has a book, Flea Market which would fit in nicely with Yard Sale.
For your convenience you can order these books directly from an online bookstore (Amazon.com):
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In Times Past
by Carol Hurst and Rebecca Otis
Integrating US History with Literature in Grades 3-8.
Enliven your US History curriculum!
Teach US History using great kids books.