Expressive watercolor paintings invigorate this story set in 1889 about a girl who learns that play can be even more fun after completing an important task.
K-Gr 3—Lizzie's mother is pregnant and cannot help Grandmother with the wash as usual, so the young girl helps with the intensive chore. She's happy to lend a hand, though missing a planned tea party with her friend Lucy and their dolls does give her a tinge of regret. A calendar on the title page places the story in April 1889, and the lengthy text gives readers an intimate look at the rigors of laundering in the time before washing machines. Lizzie and Grandmother boil water on the stove and carry it to a washbasin into which they shave homemade lye soap. They sort the clothes and scrub them on a washboard—whites first, colors and rags last. After the clothes are put through a hand wringer, they are hung on a line outdoors or placed on grass and bushes to dry. The large illustrations, created in watercolor and pencil, add a great deal to the scene. A close-up of the girl and grandparent in a welcoming embrace reveals the warm affection they share. Both Grandmother and Lizzie wear long dresses and high shoes and have old-fashioned hairdos. A black-iron stove stands out in the plain kitchen with its workbench and butter churn in the corner. Youngsters will be glad to learn that after a rest and a "thick and curdy" drink of buttermilk, Lizzie gets a surprise visitor and a tea party after all. A fine addition to a social studies unit.—Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
It's washday. That doesn't mean putting clothes in the washing machine and turning the knob or driving to the laundromat; it's 1889, when it's the old-fashioned way of getting clothes clean. Lizzie and her doll, Amelia Cordelia, walk to her grandmother's house to help because her Ma is soon to have a baby. The work is hard: boiling water in a big copper kettle; adding shavings of lye soap; sorting the clothes by color (whites for Sunday "go-to-meeting" clothes); using the broom handle to lift the hot clothing into rinse water; putting them through the wringer; and drying them on the outdoor clothesline. Taking a break with a glass of buttermilk, Lizzie is sad thinking about the doll tea party she was supposed to have with her friend that day. Surprise! Grandma has set the table for a tea party with special dishes and doll-size snickerdoodles and places for her best friend and her doll. Bunting evokes a homespun experience with emotions and details that the pencil-and-watercolor illustrations adroitly augment. Sneed neither whitewashes nor prettifies the harshness of the time; Grandma is a robust woman with hair in a bun and a big nose. Historical details like hairstyles and sturdy black shoes combine with phrases like "Grandma's dog…has the misery in his back" to make the story feel genuine. An appealing snapshot of rough-hewn life that might well make kids appreciate washing machines. (Picture book. 5-8)
Meet the Author
EVE BUNTING has writtenover two hundredbooks for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz, The Wall, Fly Away Home, and Train to Somewhere. She lives in Southern California.
Brad Sneed has illustrated more than twenty books for children. He lives in Kansas.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews