Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Windy Hill

You can buy a copy of The Windy Hill by Cornelia Meigs at Barnes and Noble and BooksAMillion or you can read the story for free through Amazon or Project Gutenberg.

The Blurb

The Windy Hill is a children's novel by Cornelia Meigs, first published in 1921 and a Newbery Honor recipient in 1922. 
A brother and sister learn about their own family's history in New England through a series of tales told by the Beeman.

My Review
The Windy Hill by Cornelia Meigs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars 
I re-read this book as part of my goal to read all the Newbery Medal and Honor books. As a child, I remember this book being a breath of fresh air after reading Hendrik Willem van Loon's The Story of Mankind. That didn't change as an adult.

This story chronicles the dynamics of an extended family, with one character, known as The Beeman until readers figure out who he is, doling out family stories to the main character, Oliver Peyton, and his sister, Janet. The Beeman's information becomes important as the story progresses and readers start to connect the dots. This book is built around the notion that children can figure out details on their own. For instance, this book starts without telling us when or where we are in time. I assume 1920s because of publication date; as for location, several clues like "by the sea" and "great Atlantic rollers , tumbling in upon the beach" point readers to the general area. The Beeman's first story is about Native Americans and gives us a better idea of location with the name of a medicine man: Secotan, a former tribe of North Carolina.

And that sets the theme - readers are encouraged to use their heads to figure out the mystery before the end of the book reveals all. 
The writing reminds me of Mary Stewart (The Moonspinners, The Arthurian Saga), with passive prose and lovely descriptions of nature/gardens weaving around a mystery. 
This book isn't PC by today's standards but, for parents who plan ahead, this book offers an opportunity to begin discussion about changing stereotypes and the history of both racism and misogyny with their kids (example, the use of the highly-offensive word squaw to describe Native American women). This book documents the history of changing attitudes within American society, opening a door to talk about these issues and how the past affects today - which is another theme of this book: the past builds the present which builds the future. I advise parents to read this book with their kids for just that reason - they are our future and they can't change it for the better if they don't understand the past.

View all my reviews

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