Forgotten Children’s Classics Make for Great Summer Reads

ID-10050741 (1)Summer reading is my favorite kind of reading, a time when books exist solely for enjoyment, for transporting ourselves from the breezy heat of the old porch swing, or from the rainy day window seat framed by flowery drapes, into another land or time period.  Even better when it can be shared with children who, but for a good book, are quick to pronounce their boredom with the slower pace of life this time of year.

I have rediscovered two books, decades-old classics, that I’m sure may be new to many children and adults alike.  And even if there’s not a child in your immediate vicinity, I find these two stories to be so impactful and memorable as to be enjoyed by any age.

The first one is Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, published in 1964.  It is a coming-of-age story set during the Civil War.  It follows the wartime experiences of Midwestern farm boy Jethro Creighton.

This story’s uniqueness comes from the fact that the reader never sees any of the war itself firsthand, yet we still understand the horrors of it and its effects on every family in the land through letters Jethro receives from his older brothers fighting in the war as well as from Shadrach Yale, the teacher he idolizes.  Through their different personalities and varied experiences, he comes to face the realities of death, of a brother on the run as a deserter, and even a brother who chooses to fight for the Confederacy, thus exposing his family as a target for prejudice and vengeance.

We see how starkly real and penetrating the effects of war could be for even a young boy miles away from its blood-stained battlefields.  Jethro faces adult feelings and dilemmas and draws us into the everyday life of the civilian, often proved to be nearly as unpleasant as the soldiers’ lot.  His pleading, inquiring letter to President Abraham Lincoln is a touching connection between the fictional story and the period of real history it portrays.  A powerful read, and my favorite Civil War-era classic.

I’ll reveal my second summer reading gem in my next post.

If You Loved “Lincoln” You Will LOVE…

…the 1989 film Glory. The Academy Awards happen this Sunday night, and history buffs and many others will be rooting for Steven Spielberg’s excellent film Lincoln, nominated for Best Picture and 11 other Oscars. If you are one of those who appreciates the attention this film is getting, and if you never saw Glory, I highly recommend this precious celluloid gem, which won three Oscars in 1990 among many other awards. It has remained a top 10 favorite of mine ever since.

Glory tells the true story of the 54th Colored Regiment during the Civil War, and it is brilliantly told, powerfully acted, and stunningly filmed. Matthew Broderick plays the very young Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, thrust into a position of leadership he was hardly prepared for. (The real Colonel Shaw is pictured at right.)The real Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

The cast is filled out by some fictional characters who effectively capture the essence of the 54th Regiment. Morgan Freeman is the seasoned soldier who keeps the younger ones in line and reminds them of why they’re there. Denzel Washington (Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor) is the rebellious runaway slave, at once difficult but courageous. Andre Braugher is Thomas Searles, a proud freeman who must toughen up to serve alongside his brothers in arms. Jihmi Kennedy is Jupiter Sharts, an illiterate field hand eager to do his part.

The molding of these characters into a cohesive, stalwart unit is a remarkable story, and the film is an inspiring, memorable piece of work and a fine tribute to that brave regiment.