40 Days of Book Praise, Day 1

RamonaGravitarOn Mardi Gras, I had an epiphany.

There’s been a lot of talk about poorly written books or works that are insensitive, tacky, or harmful to women—so much so that the negativity seems to overshadow any conversation about great works about girls or fantastic fiction for women.

I’ve decided to begin my own little mission of change. For the next 40 days, I will choose a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a relevant and worth reading. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.

I hope you’ll join the conversation.


Day 1 – A Gathering of Days, by Joan W. Blos

This middle grade novel written in the epistolary (diary) style won the Newbery Medal in 1980, for excellence in children’s literature. I chose it because, though I was not a child in 1980, it was recommended to me by a child. I worked as a children’s librarian for a while, and a young patron checked out this book. When she returned it, she told me it was the best book she had ever read and it made her want to be kind.

Why is A Gathering of Days relevant in 2015? First, it is set in snowy New Hampshire, which is a fair portrait of this year’s winter. The story is about a young girl who records the hardships and joys of pioneer life in New England in the 1830s. Catherine, the narrator, still mourns her mother and is pained to accept her father’s remarriage. Her new stepmother tries to bond with her through quilting. Catherine and her best friend Cassie secretly help an escaped slave by leaving out food and a blanket—and by not revealing his hiding place. At the end of the story, Curtis sends a note of thanks and a gift for both girls, but it is a bittersweet package.

A Gathering of Days is a quiet book full of drama. It shows that oppressed people will rebel, that youth are naturally generous, that family traditions are important, and that kindness is never forgotten.