I have to admit that I am enjoying this theme of ours as we explore books that highlight girls/women’s courage, strength, will power, inner beauty, and simplicity – totally in keeping with March being Women’s Month.
For Book Talk Tuesday this week, a meme hosted every week by Kelley Butcher from The Lemme Library, I am happy to share another book find from the library: Brave Irene by William Steig.
The Makings of a Heroine. From the first page alone, I had a feeling that this is a timeless book that a lot of children would love and enjoy:
Mrs. Bobbin, the dressmaker, was tired and had a bad headache, but she still managed to sew the last stitches in the gown she was making.
“It’s the most beautiful dress in the whole world!” said her daughter, Irene. “The duchess will love it.”
“It is nice,” her mother admitted. “But, dumpling, it’s for tonight’s ball, and I don’t have the strength to bring it. I feel sick.”
From this page alone, one can already deduce the sequence of events that would most likely follow. As expected, Brave Irene volunteered (with eagerness, at that) to take the huge package to the Duchess. Never mind that it’s beginning to snow and that it is such a long ways away to the palace.
“But I love snow,” Irene insisted. She coaxed her mother into bed, covered her with two quilts, and added a blanket for her feet. Then she fixed her some tea with lemon and honey and put more wood in the stove.
This is a book that mothers would enjoy reading to their children for a variety of reasons. The reader could sense Irene’s enthusiasm and initiative to help her own mother who worked herself to the bone despite her illness. And despite the raging snow, the whirling wind, and the huge package that Irene had to lug around the looong and tortuous pathway to the castle, she kept on and persevered. She paid no mind to the ripped branches from the tree, the knobby ground, the thicker flakes burying her feet in snow. Was she resentful that she had to do this for her mother? The thought did not even enter her young mind. Did she even think about giving up? Not one bit – because she had a very very important errand. However, the forces of nature did not make things any easier for Irene:
She pounced and took hold, but the ill-tempered wind ripped the box open. The ball gown flounced out and went waltzing through the powdered air with tissue-paper attendants.
Irene clung to the empty box and watched the beautiful gown disappear.
Whether Brave Irene managed to bring the most beautiful gown on earth to the Duchess, I shall leave for you to discover.
It’s the Little Things that Count. There is so much love, thoughtfulness, and kindness in this book – just reading it aloud brings a few unbidden tears to my eyes. And I marvel at my own response. Somehow, as we get lost in a highly-competitive environment, as we are buried in paper work, struggle to earn a living, we fail to affirm the rare little kindnesses that we see around us, alongside the quiet beauty that well-meaning and solicitous gestures, and generosity of spirit could bring. These are beautiful gifts – and this book gives that joy to you and more.
About the Author (from the jacketflap of the book).
William Steig sold his first cartoon to the New Yorker in 1930 and went on to contribute over 1600 cartoons during his career. He is the author of more than thirty children’s books including Shrek!, later filmed as the award-winning film series; he won the Caldecott Medal in 1970 and the American Book Award in 1982, and was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award twice. William Steig died aged 95, in 2003.
PictureBook Challenge Update: 37 of 120