I’m currently knitting a sontag, which is a 19th century outerwear garment that I’m making for living history reenactment. It functions sort of like a long shawl that covers the back and wraps at the shoulders, but then crosses over the chest and ties in the back. Here it is on Ravelry. I plan to make this for my daughter and an 1860 shawl for myself before December if I can find the time.
It’s been a while since I yarn’ed along, and I’ve read a lot of Newbery winners since my last post. Here are some mini-reviews:
It’s Like This, Cat (1964) follows the story of a young man living in New York City who adopts a stray cat. He argues with his father, explores the city on his bike, befriends a college-age guy he meets while getting the cat out of a basement, winds up meeting a girl he really likes, and eventually comes to see that maybe his dad isn’t such a bad guy after all. This was an interesting enough read, but it didn’t especially grab me. In part, I think it’s because the teen slang, prices, and technology mentioned made it seem more dated than some of the other Newbery winners.
Shadow of a Bull (1965) is another coming of age story that, like the 1964 winner, addresses a young man’s need to understand himself in the context of his father. The book is about the son of a famous Spanish bullfighter who died when the boy was very small. All of the men of the town expect him to become a famous bullfighter, too, and coach him constantly toward that goal. He has to overcome his own fears and reluctance to step into the ring, but he eventually does — I will leave the ending for you to read on your own. I found the topic of bull-fighting to be off-putting, but I have to confess that it was interesting to read about the training process and how a bullfight actually works.
I, Juan de Pareja (1966) is also set in Spain, but mach later — in the Renaissance. It focuses on the life of Juan, a slave who is inherited by a painter who eventually is in service to the king. Juan is pretty content with his lot in life, except for the fact that slaves are not allowed to paint and he desperately wants to do so. This was an interesting book, although at a point I wished that the author had engaged more deeply with the issue of slavery, but just when I thought that, the author introduced Juan’s fiery future wife who was much less content to accept slavery as a given or to lavish devotion on the people who legally owned the couple. If you’re interested in art, this is an interesting read.
Up A Road Slowly (1967) is beautifully written, but the story was often sad and I was left feeling like it was the sort of poignant book that adults might say captures the emotions of adolescence more than a book that adolescents themselves would find engaging and relevant. The book opens with the death of the main character’s mother and then the young girl and her brother are sent away from her family home and her father to live with an aunt and her alcoholic brother in the country. As she struggles to adapt to this new life, a classmate who is teased by everyone in the school becomes ill and dies — definitely not chipper fare. The book goes on to cover Julie’s growth into adulthood and her voice is consistently interesting throughout, but the main point seems to be that Julie is becoming less selfish over time, which struck me as pretty preachy. In all, this one was not a favorite. This book marked the half-way point in my Newbery book journey! 45 down, 45 to go!
I’m currently reading From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968) and so far, what a lovely creative book! More to come in a future Yarn Along! This post is part of this week’s Yarn Along on the blog Small Things.