Sunday, February 14, 2016

Reading Through History: Winterbound by Margery Williams Bianco (1936)

In this 1937 Newbery Honor novel by Velveteen Rabbit author Margery Williams, teen sisters Kay and Garry have moved from the city into a farmhouse in Connecticut with their mother and younger siblings, while their father goes on an archaeological expedition. When their mother is called away to nurse a sick relative, the two girls are left to care for the household through the brutal New England winter.

This novel of the Great Depression is a wonderful family story populated by memorable characters. The artistic Kay and science-minded Garry take turns as the focal point of the book, and their concerns about their personal interests are as compelling as the difficulties they face in keeping warm and surviving the difficult winter conditions. Their personalities are strong and compelling, and especially enjoyable to read are their encounters with "The Cummings," an older woman who is sent to babysit them, and who does not last long in her post, and with a writer to whom they rent a room when they find themselves in need of extra money.

Despite its age, this book has a very contemporary flair to it. It is similar in tone to family stories like those in the Bluebell Gadsby and Casson Family series, especially in terms of the very familiar and affectionate way the children relate to their mother. It also has much in common with other stories of teens taking over their households and working to survive on their own, namely Hattie Big Sky and Strong Wings.  The writing is excellent, with believable dialogue, several interesting subplots, and prose that is beautiful without being overly purple. Though the intended audience is probably teen girls, the content is appropriate for younger readers as well, as long as they have some context for understanding life during the Depression.

(Note: Missing from the edition of this book that I read are Kate Seredy's illustrations. As I have become quite a fan of her work lately, this is something I must soon remedy! I found the endpapers on the late Peter Sieruta's website, but I want more!)

No comments:

Post a Comment