Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Clearing Weather

Clearing Weather by Cornelia Meigs is probably a book you'll have to hunt down. I suggest starting at your local library.

The Blurb


1929 Newbery Honor Recipient  
The story of young Nicholas Drury's struggle to maintain his uncle's shipyard in a Massachusetts town in the difficult years following the American Revolution.







My Review 
Clearing Weather by Cornelia Meigs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This 1929 Newbery Honor book attempts to illustrate the influence of ships on the building of America during and after the American Revolution.

The story itself feels worn and outdated; the plot was predictable to me even as a child which makes the book feel like it takes longer to read than it actually does. Granted, this book was easier to read than the last few Newbery books I have re-read. The language is modern; I said of Meigs' 1922 Newbery Honor book (The Windy Hill) that she reminded me of Mary Stewart in the way that she handles descriptions; that statement still applies with this book. That's her strong point - Meigs knew how to spin a description.

The problem is that some of her descriptions, while they may have been acceptable at the time of publication, are not acceptable in our evolving modern world. Like many books of this time, this story is disparaging toward Native Americans and Asians. On the other hand, this book also mentions how widespread trade was between North and South American natives and we catch a glimpse of China. But still, we watch white men invade territories that they have no jurisdiction over and we're supposed to sympathize with them when the native populations attempt to mete out their own law and order - law and order that is only depicted as ruthlessness and savagery to these white invaders. Strangely enough, this plot-line is paralleled with England's attempt to claim America.

Then, there's the depiction of women. A handful of comments scattered throughout the text reinforce the notion that a woman's rightful place is "in the home." Meanwhile, one female character laments that she can't be a sailor herself and, ultimately, it's the women who save the whole town's trade while all the credit goes to the men who took the women's wares out into the world.

This juxtaposition of information makes me wonder if Meigs intended this book to be a starting point for discussions about these issues? And, if used as such, this book has potential to inspire those conversations between parents and children/teachers and students. I don't know that I would want a child to read this book on their own and potentially take away some of these attitudes without getting those discussions.

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