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'Sarah, Plain and Tall', 'From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler', 'A Wrinkle in Time'

Reviews by Melissa Oxborrow

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[May 29, 2014]   Award-winning Classics for Today’s Kids

Sarah, Plain and Tall
by Patricia MacLachlan (J MACL)
HarperCollins, c1985, 58 pages, Grades 1 – 5

If your child loves Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books or thinks stories about the “olden” days are cool, they’ll love Sarah, Plain and Tall, the first in a series about the Witting family. Set in the Midwest during the late nineteenth century, this is Anna’s story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton arrives to answer her daddy’s advertisement for a wife and mother. Anna and her younger brother Caleb are torn between hoping Sarah can fill the hole left by their mother and hoping that Papa will send her away, never to return. Will Anna and Caleb find a way to be true to their mother’s memory while letting a new woman into their lives? Will Papa be able to love a woman seemingly so different from his beloved first wife? And if they can, will Sarah choose to stay---or go?

I didn’t discover this book until I was an adult and when I did, I realized I’d missed out. Filled with smiles and tears, this classic filled with heart won the coveted children’s Newbery Medal in 1986. It was also an Illinois Rebecca Caudill Award nominee in 1988 and inspired two Hallmark films starring Glen Close. If you enjoy this title, don’t miss out on the rest of the series.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg (J KON)
Atheneum Books, c1967, 162 pages, Grades 3 – 7

What child hasn’t thought about running away from home? Well, when Claudia Kincaid decides to run away she decides to go big! She needs money so she enlists the help of her younger brother, Jamie, who has the financial capital to make her dream a reality. And what is her dream? Where is she going? The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City---somewhere safe, comfortable, and beautiful.

It’s surprisingly easy to settle in to the museum, but soon after they arrive, they happen upon a mystery connected to one of the great Renaissance artists. Is the angel statue Mrs. Frankweiler sold the museum really the work of the famous Michelangelo? Will Claudia and Jamie learn how to work together to solve the mystery or will they kill each other in the process? And most importantly, can they eventually find their way home?

One of my personal favorites growing up, this Newbery Award-winning title portrays a sibling relationship that makes you smile, along with a mystery that keeps kids guessing. And you’ll never look at a museum the same way again.

Other award-winning titles by E.L. Konigsburg include The View from Saturday and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.

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A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle (J LEN)
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 211 pages, Grades 5 and up

Meg Murry isn’t in a good place right now. She isn’t doing well in school, her younger brother Charles Wallace is being bullied, and her family hasn’t heard from Father in a long time---fueling the gossip around town that he’s run off with another woman. Enter one “dark and stormy night”, a new friend named Calvin and three strangers that will help Meg make the journey of a life-time. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which tell Meg that her scientist father is in danger and soon she, Calvin and little Charles Wallace are on a dangerous quest travelling across the stars to find him, and save him.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of those rare books that I love just as much now as I did when I first read it in fourth grade. It’s a story of precious family relationships and heart-warming friendships, about facing fear and trusting yourself and the people you love. It’s about forgiving others when they are not what we want them to be, and forgiving ourselves when we fall short. The book is filled with distinctive characters like Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which whom you can’t help but adore. Readers will be able to relate to Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin---their challenges and strengths---which makes following them through their adventures all the more memorable.

If you enjoy this Newbery Award-winning novel, check out the other titles featuring the Murray and O’Keefe families: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. We have a graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time available at the library for those who love graphic novels and comic books. (J 741.5973) If you’re headed on a road trip, we also have a copy of the book on CD for you to take along! (J CD LEN)

To check out these books or to get recommendations for other great reads, please come see us at the Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin Street.

[By MELISSA OXBORROW, Lincoln Public Library District]


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