Friday, February 2, 2018

Book Bites - Marguerite de Angeli...

I am a self proclaimed bibliophile who’s built a home library containing a few thousand books. Anyone who enters our home can see we love books! However, I don’t love just any book as I admit to being a little bit of a book snob. To me, a book must be of high quality. I look for a story with excellent moral value. I want the characters to have character and depth. I tend to be partial to books written in the Golden Age of Children's Literature, which began in Europe in the mid 1800’s and continued into America until around the 1960’s. There was about 100 years, where children’s literature was at its peak. We have read widely in our home, but find the books written within that 100 year time period to be far superior.

Last Sept 2017, I gave a talk at the Journey: An Education for Life retreat in which I talked about Teaching Through Literature and Living Books. I received great feedback from families who wanted more information about the books I mentioned and their authors. This got me thinking about how best to present that information. As a result, I’ve decided to write blog posts that accompany Instagram Live discussions. The IG Live only remains for 24 hours, so the blog posts will serve as a more permanent record.

In these posts, I’ll be writing to showcase a variety of authors and their books. I will write about individual books, topical study books, series books, and authors. Today, I’m going to start with Marguerite de Angeli, who lived and wrote during that Golden Age of Children's Literature that I mentioned...

Marguerite was born in 1889 in Lapeer, MI, one of six children. Her father was an illustrator and photographer. In spite of living near poverty, Marguerite reported a happy childhood. She loved to draw and paint from a very early age. However, rather than drawing, she started her career as a professional singer after dropping out of high school to pursue voice lessons.

In 1910, Marguerite married a violinist, John Daily de Angeli. Together they had six children. Marguerite began drawing in earnest while her children were very small. Eventually, she showed some of her drawings to their neighbor, M.L. Brower, who was a well-known illustrator at that time. Brower encouraged Marguerite to continue drawing and within a year’s time, he sent some of her illustrations to his editor, of which, she received her first illustrating commission.

Marguerite continued to work diligently over the next few years illustrating stories, magazine articles and books for others. It wasn’t until 14 years later that she wrote her own first book, Henner’s Lydia, which is the story of a young Amish girl living near Lancaster, PA. Lydia is working on a hooking a small mat to take to the market. However, she is sidetracked daily by everything, but her work. Does Lydia finish her mat in time? I will let you read and find out.

Marguerite went on to write many more wonderful children’s books. She was one of the first authors to write about children of racial, regional, and religious minorities. Marguerite traveled and did on the spot research for her stories. Her book settings are very accurate. In addition, Marguerite's pencil illustrations are remarkable, just as good as the words she penned. I read that she used her own children as models for her illustrations, making them seem life like. Marguerite's books are wholesome as she believed children benefit from reading about happy homes. Her books are truly treasures and I would really encourage you to check them out from the library or to consider purchasing copies for your own home library.

I have collected a few of Marguerite de Angeli's books, but certainly don’t own them all. Many of Marguerite's titles were originally published in hardcover, but unfortunately, they are getting harder to find as they have become collectible and some of the prices are astronomical. Thankfully, many of the titles are being reprinted in softcover by publishers like Sonlight Curriculum, Herald Press, and Laudamus Press. The titles we've collected so far are as follows...

The Old Testament illustrated by de Angeli - This lovely rendition of the Old Testament is a delight for all ages to page through! 

Marguerite de Angeli's Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes - Again the wonderful illustrations, which alternate between black/white pencil drawings and color, make these nursery rhymes come to life and are extra sweet.

Copper-Toed Boots - an adventure story of a boy through a Michigan summer - I'll include some sample illustrations below. 

Henner's Lydia - story of a young Amish girl hooking a mat to sell at market

Yonie Wondernose - about a 7-year old boy who can't keep his nose out of trouble

Thee, Hannah! - 9-year old Quaker, living in Philadelphia just before the Civil War

Bright April - young black child growing up in Germantown, PA

The Skippack School - Eli immigrates to America and must attend the new school

The Door in the Wall - crippled boy who proves his courage, set in 13th Century England

Black Fox of Lorne - 10th Century Viking twin brothers, who vow to avenge their fathers death

The Lion in the Box - a beautiful Christmas tale, set around the turn of the century in New York City

The Door in the Wall and Black Fox of Lorne, both make an excellent addition to your Medieval History study. The first of which, is more common and readily available. However, the second is a do not miss in our opinion! The Amish and Quaker stories are great reads while studying Colonial History. And, of course, The Lion in the Box is a must read Christmas treasure. Below are some sample illustrations....

Copper-Toed Boots...

Little Bo Peep... 

Wee Willie Winkie.... 

Mary had a Little Lamb...

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