This is a lovely book. I never read it as a child, but I read it over the last two weeks. Marguerite De Angeli weaves a sensitive story that touches on race, history, changing neighborhoods, and a young girl coming to understand, and really see the world, including the natural world, around her. April Bright is 9 going on 10, a special time for a girl, I think. (That's when I started to write in earnest, so I am fond of that age.)
De Angeli is credited with being the first children's author to deal with racial prejudice, and she deftly conveys in very subtle ways how the Bright family is affected by and navigates the limitations imposed on them.
For instance, April's brother Tom who is always rattling drumsticks on any surface, falls in with a bad group of boys. When a police officer takes him home, it's because Tom's father is a postman, known in the neighborhood. That saves him from a worse fate. Her older brother Ken a serviceman overseas, laments in letters home that he is given the laundry detail, and hopes things "have improved back home," and that he will be able to find professional work. A young girl meets April at a Brownie gathering, and refuses to sit near April. Of course, they are good friends by the end of this short book.
April's best friend is Sophie, a Jewish girl, which gives De Angeli an opportunity to talk about Jewish culture and history briefly, too. There is a lot of information in this book, but it is seamless, one scene flowing naturally into the next.
Tattered and Lost has more information about this wonderful writer and artist, and posted pictures of her 1939 work, "Skippack School."
The "Bright April" illustrations are delightful. I was reminded of Louise Fitzhugh, the author/illustrator of "Harriet the Spy," another book about a 9-year-old girl observing the world around her, and coming into focus herself.
For all the bright Aprils to come...