Hornbooks and Inkwells

Verla Kay, illus. by S.D. Schindler. Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-23870-3
In this duo's third collaboration, following Covered Trails, Bumpy Wagons and Gold Fever, Kay employs her trademark quatrains to showcase school life in colonial times. Two spunky brothers, Peter and John Paul, attend a one-room schoolhouse under the watchful eye of their master, who intervenes in their more ill-behaved antics. The boys tackle geography lessons, spelling bees, psalm recitation, and the tedium of writing practice: "Feather pen nib,/ Sharpen tip./ Paper curling./ Ink pen, dip." From birch-bark paper and neck yokes in the classroom to clay marbles and wooden stilts at recess, readers glean much from the spare, rhyming verses and Schindler's detailed watercolor and gouache scenes. Resembling those in his Tricking the Tallyman, about the same era, the paintings engage with touches of humor and expressive faces. Every few pages, a delicate nature motif in a partial border announces the change of season, e.g., large snowflakes hover above a spread showing students ice-skating on the school pond in winter. The small trim size and succinct verse of this history lesson shouldn't deceive; there's a store of information packed within. Ages 4–8. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
Genre: Children's
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