On this night, Chapter & Verse book clubs discussed two books about women.
The Sweethearts of Rhythm (Dial) uses poetry and paintings based on photos to tell the true story of a group of women, primarily African American, who played swing music throughout the United States during World War II. Narrated by the musicians’ instruments, it’s a strong book to be included in units on music, jazz, and World War II, or to introduce your children to swing music and the contributions of women musicians.
Marion Dane Bauer, the author of The Very Little Princess (Random House), joined the group at The Red Balloon Bookshop to talk about this book and a few of her many published works. It’s the story of a little girl who discovers a grandmother she didn’t know, who forms a relationship with a most unusual friend, and who discovers that life can change.
Sweethearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney
The group as a whole loved how it was written. We liked that it was told by the instruments and highlighted the different members of the group. It was a unique way of writing that was refreshing.
We were surprised to learn that not all the members of the band were African American.
No one was familiar with this group until reading the book. It provides another good glimpse into the history of a culture/background that we were not familiar with.
In the book there is an illustration of the separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks. Someone noticed how attention was paid to where the gutter would fall in the illustration.
It was mentioned that Jerry Pinkney has many good interviews available on the internet about growing up with a learning disability.
When a member watched a You Tube video on the group, she noted that the illustrations closely matched the people and personalities of the members. Including that the director faced the audience rather than the band when she conducted.
There was a good MPR program earlier in the week before our group meeting about women in the history of music. It might be good to pair it with the book.
We noticed the unique color palette that was chosen for the book.
A CD of the band playing would have added to the book.
We also discussed the importance of swing music at the time of its popularity.
The book can be used in many different curricular areas.
A Very Little Princess by Marion Dane Bauer
We didn’t get to discuss much before Marion Dane Bauer arrived. We were so thrilled for her to share background information about the book with us.
The group started out very conflicted on the book. A main contributor to this was that some people felt misled by the cover and how the book was marketed, fearing that children too young may pick up the book thinking the subject matter was lighter. Marion shared with us that it was not how she envisioned the book to be done. One member even said that there should be a warning on the book to readers and parents that it is not a gentle story. In Marion’s words, the book should have had a different title, cover, and presentation.
Marion told us that she doesn’t think of the audience when writing a story. She has a story to tell and it comes out as it is supposed to. As a small child she had fantasies of turning into a doll. The story started there only to be written much later after the death of her son.
Is there hope at the end of the story? One person said she would like to see a prequel to this book. Marion doesn’t think it is possible to do this. She has told the story and there isn’t anywhere to go from there. The first draft was a real struggle. She wrote about grieving, learning to cry, and mortality. Not until the book was done, did she look at it and realize it was about the struggle with grieving for her son.
The publisher wanted a four-book series, but Marion signed for two.
In Marion’s eyes, Rose was bipolar.
Some of our members liked the obscurity of the story. Others just want the facts.
Our group placed this book as for an audience of 2nd – 5th graders, leaning more to the older side.
In all of Marion’s stories there is an element of a parent leaving and then the child finding their way back. In A Mama for Owen, it was the only time when a child didn’t get back with family. Someone told Marion, this is the first book that their adopted child let the parents read all the way through. Marion wonders if in some way that child related to Owen.
Writing was difficult for Marion, but when she started typing it was like someone who couldn’t walk being given wings.
She was a stay-at-home mom for many years. When her youngest started school, she and her husband talked about going to work. Marion asked for five years to try out a career at writing. She figured “no one will give me the time to write, I need to find the time.” She started looking at picture books and the Newbery award shelf at the library. Two of her favorite books were Sounder and Slave Dancer. From this she learned she could write about anything. She wrote about abandonment of foster children. It took 3½ years of work before her first novel was published and 4½ years before her second was published.
Our group would like to say a big thank you to Vicki for organizing this guest visit and also a big thank you to Marion Dane Bauer for being our princess for the night and gracing us with her presence.