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Culture Children's Books

The test of time

Children’s Books

The test of time

Books from the past for middle grade and tween readers

The Year of Miss Agnes

Kirkpatrick Hill

Fred and her deaf sister Boko live in an Alaskan village shortly after World War II. Every year a new teacher comes to teach the children, but she never lasts long under the difficult conditions. Then one day Miss Agnes arrives—and she stays. The inspiring book recounts their school year with Miss Agnes, who understands the unique needs of Alaskan village life and uses kindness to positively affect the whole community. Hill interweaves into the story interesting descriptions of daily life in an Alaskan village, including how traditional skills and methods became incorporated into modern life. (2000; ages 8-12)

The Cricket in Times Square

George Selden

In this classic children’s book, Mario Bellini discovers a lost cricket while working in his parents’ newspaper stand. The cricket, Chester, quickly makes friends with the humans and other animals who occupy the Times Square subway station. But Chester is no ordinary cricket: He can play music through chirping. His skill brings fortune to the poor Bellini family and beauty to the lives of the New Yorkers who hear him. The country cricket also learns about the fickleness of fame and discovers what truly matters in life. A whimsical tale of friendship, beauty, and the universal appeal of music. (1960; ages 6-10)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E.L. Konigsburg

The premise behind Konigsburg’s story is a child’s fantasy: Twelve-year-old Claudia and her 9-year-old brother Jamie run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cautious Claudia longs for something to make her life different and interesting, while Jamie likes complicated plans. As the book chronicles their childlike schemes, thoughts, and misadventures, it wields keen insight into human nature. It also explores the deeper relationship that develops between a brother and sister when they work as a team, as well as the way art can reach through time to capture our hearts. (1967; ages 10 & up)

The Little White Horse

Elizabeth Goudge

When orphan Maria Merryweather travels to the English countryside to live with a relative she has never met, she is expecting discomfort and drudgery. But her new home turns out to be an enchanted mini kingdom in which she is the heiress. All is not well in the kingdom, though, and Maria and her new friends must exercise courage and love to chase away the darkness and heal old wounds. A beautiful and wise book with all the elements that make a good children’s story—friendly animals, old stories, good food, and adventure. (1946; ages 12 & up)

Handout

Gene Stratton-Porter (Handout)

AFTERWORD

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (first published in 1909) is a meandering, meditative work that sometimes feels like two or three novels wrapped into one. Elnora grew up in Indiana’s Limberlost Swamp, where the hardships of life shaped her into a brave, kind, and gracious young woman. Her story unfolds as she strives to understand and heal her family’s wounds. 

Elnora exemplifies the kind of goodness that makes a person truly interesting: She has grit and curiosity and cares for those around her with no expectation of receiving anything in return. The book dwells on the beauty of God’s creation and explores how it can teach and form the character of those who, like Elnora, take time to pay attention. The story is a slow burn, but like a lovely stroll through the woods, it is full of deep insight and quiet beauty. —R.L.A.