Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Searching for Shona by Margaret J. Anderson (1978)

What is remarkable to me about this book is not the plot or the characters, because honestly, the book is  not all that interesting.  What's remarkable is that it made such an impression on me, long ago, age 10, when Miss Shull read it aloud to our fourth grade class. I hardly remembered anything about this book, other than the general premise - two girls switch places in the confused disarray of children being evaucated from the Blitz during World War II. I  remembered one girl was named Shona.  And I remembered the end, that when the two girls met again after the war, one girl claimed to not know the other girl, and basically stole her life.  Until re-reading this, I had no idea why any of this happened; and in fact, I had remembered the main character (Marjorie, another  thing I didn't remember from the book) was the one who went to Canada (she wasn't).

It's the act of being read aloud to that makes the book stick so much, I guess.  Miss Shull must have liked books about World War II, because she also read aloud The Silver Sword (only that edition was re-titled Escape from Warsaw for some reason; perhaps that sounded more exciting).  I also remember her reading some book with Basenji dogs in it; I will have to do some research on that one.  

I bought books through a Scholastic catalog; maybe it was Weekly Reader.  One of those books was another book by Margaret J. Anderson called In the Circle of Time, about a girl and boy who go forward in time.  But I never owned Searching for Shona.

Searching for ShonaSearching for Shona by Margaret J. Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a book my fourth grade teacher, Miss Coralie Shull,  read aloud to our class sometime in 1979-1980.  I'm not going to claim that this is wonderful literature, but something about it has stuck in my head for 36 years, bits and pieces that were wonderful to explore again. It's a strange little book, sort of unbelievable, and some things I at age 10 probably accepted at face value I puzzled over at age 40something.  I also think that if this were written today, we'd probably get a sequel or two (or three or four...), but way back in the dark ages of children's literature, you had to use your imagination to come up with "the rest of the story."  I don't know if kids today would even like a book like this.  I do know that the power of reading aloud to impressible fourth graders must be pretty strong, as I remembered this (and several others).

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