Thursday, September 5, 2019

Book Review: Listening by Kate Seredy (1936)

When a bus stops in Hopkins Corners, New Jersey, the whole town wonders who has arrived. It turns out to be young Eleanor Abigail, better known as Gail, who has come to visit her uncle George. Over the course of her week-long stay, Gail listens to old family stories about the history of Uncle George's old Dutch house and how it was built.

Though this is definitely not Kate Seredy's best-written or most sophisticated book, it is still quite charming. The story shows a strong appreciation for American history and family ancestry as well as the value of passing stories down from one generation to the next. I can imagine this book inspiring young readers to ask questions about the history of their own homes, or of old houses that have been in their families. The title of the book also has a double meaning. It's not just about listening to an older relative telling tales of the past; it's also about keeping an ear out for the stories held by old houses, trees, rivers, and the world around us.

Though this book is difficult to find (I only had it in my house for one night, and that was thanks to inter-library loan), it would make a great introduction to the idea of history for an early elementary school student. I wish I had been able to read it to my own 5-year-old before it had to be returned. This is also an enjoyable read for fans of Seredy, as it is only her second book, but it seems to predict the themes of history, family, heritage, and storytelling that are important to her later titles.

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