Sunday, April 10, 2011

Special Gifts by Cynthia Rylant

Three weeks off from school is a long time for children, especially Lily, Tess, and Rosie. But their Aunt Lucy knows exactly what they can do this Winter Vacation.

Lily, Tess and Rosie are all nine years old. Lily and Rosie were sisters and Tess was their cousin. Their parents all danced for a touring ballet company and they would be gone for a year! Aunt Lucy was in charge of the girls for the entire year. The girls were wondering what they would do for the three weeks they were to be out for Winter Vacation from school and they decided on learning to sew (even though Tess had to be talked into it a little). They also decided that Mrs. White would be the perfect sewing teacher.

They met Mrs. White, a very elderly woman, over the summer when they went to her house to sell cookies to her. Mrs. White was then just turning 90 years old.

The girls ran the idea by their Aunt Lucy, and sure enough...Aunt Lucy loved the idea. She suggested bringing Mrs. White some tea cakes and oranges from the French Market.

After the girls began to sewing (Rosie wanted to make cotton dolls with dresses, Tess wanted to make a vest with sequins, and Lily wanted to make little pillows and decorated with words like, "Wish."), the girls took a break to help Mrs. White sort through a trunk full of photos, letters, and small mementos. One of the most fascinating things they discovered were letters from Mrs. White's friend Elenor Roosevelt. It turned out that Mrs. White saved letters from two people....her late husband and her dear friend Elenor Roosevelt, "That's why I've kept Elenor's letters. No matter here place in history, she was my friend, and I love having her voice in my trunk." This sentiment inspired the three girls to do the same. The girls picked up some stationary and began writing that very night before they went to bed. They decided they would write a diary together.

The girls adventures ranged from learning to sew, creating a diary, learning about Winter Solstice (the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year), and being together.

This book was like no other that I've read from Cynthia Rylant. You can read the rest of her collection of The Cobble Street Cousins by clicking on the link.

The reviews I read on this collection was all the same "warm and fuzzy." Everyone seemed to enjoy the nostalgia and the knowing that nothing bad was going to occur in the books.

The illustrations are light and cheerful. Wendy Anderson Halperin, the illustrator, used pencil illustrations. This made kept the story warm and friendly.

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