Post #21: Thimble Summer

Thimble Summer
Elizabeth Enright
Post number twenty-one is for Elizabeth Enright's Thimble Summer, which is one of the books on my Required Reading List for an upcoming Grad School class. The class is called History of Children's Literature, so the books on the list are older – this one was originally written in 1938 and was actually a Newberry Medal Winner. I didn't have any opinion about it whatsoever going in, except that I thought it was probably a decent book, if it was being used in my course as an example of literature from this time period. And it was a nice little story – it reads pretty quickly, and I enjoyed the characters and the storyline a lot. I don't know what I'm going to need to remember about this book (and the others I've read already that are also conveniently on the Required Reading list), but at least want to write down my initial thoughts, in case we're going to have to discuss them during the course.

Brief spoilers follow.

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This book was basically something of a feel-good story. The main character is Garnet, who lives on a farm in Wisconsin with her mom, dad, and two brothers. Her best friend is Citronella, who lives on a neighboring farm. The story starts off in the summer, and the people of Esau's Valley are experiencing a drought, which is making it difficult for her father to get enough money to pay the bills. One evening, while swimming in a river with her brother Jay, Garnet discovers a silver thimble in the riverbank. Several great things happen after this discovery, which prompts Garnet to declare the thimble "magic". She refers to all the events of the summer (the book takes place over said summer) as her "thimble summer", hence the title of the book.

The story was nice – nothing fantastic, nothing horrendous – but there were definitely signs that the book was written in 1938. I don't want to say that we perhaps have more decorum now, but many of the characters in this book were overweight, and every time Garnet gave a description of someone (the book is through her eyes), she uses the word "fat", even for her best friend, Citronella. I guess that that was perhaps not seen as an insult as it would be now – we tend to use "nicer" words to describe things nowadays – but it was something that drew my attention every time she used the term to describe someone she was interacting with. (One of the other characters uses the word "fleshy" to describe someone who was overweight – there I go with my "nicer words again! – and even that, to me, wasn't quite kosher.) Other than that, I didn't find anything striking about the narrative.

Thimble Summer wasn't an adventure book. It was just a summer seen through the eyes of a young girl, and we get to experience her feelings and opinions as she lives her everyday life. It struck me that, compared to Treasure Island (which is another book on the list – thank goodness I've read it already because that one took me YEARS to get through!), they really weren't anything like each other. Treasure Island was written in the 1800s, and was all about adventure and danger. Thimble Summer in comparison was just … bland. No real adventure (Garnet does hitchhike to and from a neighboring town, but she's never threatened or in any physical danger, so by "adventure" I mean something like the Percy Jackson or Harry Potter books where there is Mortal Peril around every corner), nothing earth-shattering, but it's still a nice little story. And I feel dumb using the word "nice" to describe it, because I am sure my professor will be looking for something more intelligent than that, but … that's what it was. Will need to think more about it if we end up having to discuss it, I guess.

Next up for me on the Required Reading list will be Harriet the Spy, which I started reading last year but didn't finish because I find characters in uncomfortable situations uncomfortable myself, but I won't have a choice about finishing it this time, sigh. Also up (in my "free" time) will be School Spirit, which is another of this year's Mark Twain Award Nominee books. Hopefully I can actually squeeze some "me reading" time in somewhere!

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