Tuesday, 21 January 2020

A new favourite author of ours - Elizabeth George Speare

We decided on a Charlotte Mason approach to home education when we embarked on this journey, and draw heavily on the Ambleside Online curriculum. We've done years 1-5 with our eldest, and what's been an interesting by-product has been the discovery of some hitherto unknown (to us) authors.

As I've been reflecting on this, I think the simple reason is that been compiled in America and reflects cherished American children's literature - some of which is well known on this side of the Atlantic, but some of it isn't.

One author we discovered for ourselves in Year 4 was Elizabeth George Speare, who started to publish historical children's books in America from the 1950s. She won two Newbery Medals for her work and so far we've read three of her books.

Calico Captive was the book that got us hooked. It's based on the true story of an English pioneer family in 1754 who get captured by Native Americans and traded to the French in New France.

This was a historical period I was less familiar with (over 100 years before the Little House series), and as a result I was inspired to read for myself some (short) histories of Canada and America to understand the context better.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond was the next title we enjoyed, set a century earlier in a puritan Connecticut settlement in 1687. The heroine, Kit, encounters small-mindedness and prejudice in this small community and sets out to make a positive difference. Despite the title this is not a spooky book!

Our third title of hers is The Bronze Bow, based around the struggle for Jewish independence from the Romans around the time of Jesus. It's fitted in well with our Roman studies, especially the perspective of an occupied people.

Trying to sum up what it is about Elizabeth George Speare's books that really grabbed us, a few things stand out:
  • Interesting historical periods
  • Great writing and plots
  • Female lead characters (esp. in Calico Captive and the Witch of Blackbird Pond)
  • Clever comparison between cultures and belief systems
Eden (10) says:
"Elizabeth George Speare is a very good writer because she writes good stories with  strong female leads. Her stories are historically accurate and fun at the same time."
We didn't find the stories all resolved as we might have quite expected, which was a good discussion point! Either way, they have lingered with us more so than other books we've read, which is why we wanted to highlight them to you. We're looking forward to reading The Sign of the Beaver together later this year too.


We'd love to hear your experience of "discovering" new authors as you've home educated your tribe and what books have most resonated in your families. Please drop us a note in the comments below or on any of our platforms!

#charlottemason #ambleside #CalicoCaptive #BronzeBow #WitchofBlackbirdPond

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