Books and Beyond

In June when my husband and I drove south to visit family and friends in central Iowa, we stopped for lunch at Estherville, and to walk around a bit more, we went into a store with a variety of used and homemade items. I bought a hardback of “Honey Bunch: Her First Trip to the Great Lakes,” by Helen Louise (Thorndyke, Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., c 1930). I read this book on and off this summer and remembered reading Honey Bunch books when I was a young girl.

A recent Juvenile Fiction book I checked out of the Marshall-Lyon County Library is “The Becket List: A Blackberry Farm Story” by Adele Griffin, Pictures by LeUyen (Pham, Alongquin Young Readers of Chapel Hill, c 2019). I read the two books side by side, and thinking about two stories published 90 years apart kept me alert.

My outline looks like this: I. families and their travels, II. animals, and III. meeting new people.

Honey Bunch Morton is the only child in her family. Her age is not officially given, but I ‘m guessing she’s 9 or 10. In the first chapter she is sitting on the floor with platters, moving them around until they look like the Great Lakes. That’s where she and her mom and dad are going soon. Honey doesn’t have a dog, but her friend Norman does. He comes to her house now with Waggy, a black and white thoroughbred dog who runs over the platters and makes a mess. But nobody is mad at the dog.

When dad, mom, and Honey Bunch are ready to leave for their trip, they take a taxi to the train station and climb aboard. Their next mode of transportation is a ship, and they do eventually sail on all five Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Superior, Ontario, and Michigan. They get off the ship to visit many land sites.

When they are in Duluth, they visit elevators that store wheat. Then the driver of their sight-seeing automobile puts an Indian word on a piece of paper: ottohehaho, which is an Iroquois word that means a place where money and presents are distributed. Honey plans to send a postcard to her friend Norman telling him about this new word she has learned.

Honey and her mother walk on the beach while Mr. Morton is playing golf. A stray dog comes by them, and Honey takes it back to Duluth. Eventually she gives the dog to a new friend she meets on the ship, Hilda, who is in a wheelchair. When they get off the ship for the last time in Duluth, Hilda’s family takes Honey’s family to the zoo. On the last page, there is a reference to “Honey Bunch: Her First Trip on an Airplane.”

In “The Becket List,” the young girl, Rebecca, is 9 years old, and we follow her travels when the Branch family moves from the city to the country — Blackberry Farm. Nicholas is Becket’s twin brother, and their older sister, 12 years old, is Caroline.

Nicholas rides with his father in the car, and the two girls are with their mother on a five-hour train ride from Barham. Blackberry Farm is where dad grew up, and his mom, whom they call Gran, still lives here and runs a small grocery store. Becket’s parents are veterinarians.

After they get settled in the house where Gran lives, Becket gets to help feed a donkey and a mule, and gather eggs from the chickens. She loves doing this, because it helps her deal with 9-year-old difficulties like when a new friend she meets, Frieda, spends more time with Nicholas.

Frieda’s family, the Francas from Peru, have moved here to raise alpacas — they have 17. When Becket’s family is invited to the Francas’ one day, they are served papas rellenas, pollo a la brasa, and tres leches.

Becket gives a lot of care to Mr. Fancypants, her family’s dog, who takes medicine for his heart. Becket knows she won’t have this dog forever, so she is dreaming of her next dog, whom she calls Noble. And yes, Mr. Fancypants dies toward the end of the book, and the family has a funeral for him.

Becket’s list is one way of keeping track of her story. The first notation on her list is HOW TO BE A COUNTRY KID. The last notation is BE A FRIEND TILL THE END. She has learned this from loving her dog, but she also knows it applies to her feelings about other people. You need to get over being upset and get back to love.

Both books bring in people from other cultures. In Honey Bunch it is learning the word in the language of the Iroquois, and their driver tells them more about the tribe. (The term used for the people is Indian rather than Native American.) Becket is with people from Peru, and she learns about their foods, and more about alpacas, whose origin is Peru.

I drove to Cottonwood on an errand the day I finished these books, and two girls about Honey’s and Becket’s age had set up a lemonade stand on Barstad Road. The scene was a perfect ending to the books.

Reading throughout the summer is fun for all ages! Kids are encouraged to earn prizes by reading and doing other activities until Labor Day. The Marshall-Lyon County Library is open Monday-Thursday 9:30 a.m-7:30 p.m.; Friday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., marshalllyonlibrary.org.