Sunday, April 3, 2022

~ MMGM MISS HAPPINESS AND MISS FLOWER ~

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~ MARVELOUS MIDDLE-GRADE
MONDAY HISTORICAL
FICTION FEATURE ~
--  'MISS HAPPINESS & MISS FLOWER'  --
AUTHOR RUMER GODDEN
~Post Includes:  Book Spotlight,
Author Bio & My Review~
 
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ABOUT THE BOOK {from the Author's Literary Trust Website}:

England is the last place Nona Fells wants to be.

No one asked her if she wanted to leave sunny India to live in a chilly English village with her aunt’s family – and her cousin, Belinda, just hates her! But when two dainty Japanese dolls arrive at Nona’s doorstep, everything begins to change.

Like Nona, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower are lonely and homesick, so Nona decides to build them their own traditional Japanese house.

Over time, not only does Nona create a home for the dolls, but one for herself as well.

Originally published in 1961, Rumer Godden’s classic story of friendship and being part of a family is now back in print for a new generation of readers to cherish.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR {from the Author's Literary Trust Website}:

Rumer Godden was born in Sussex in 1907 but, at six months old, was taken out to India where her father ran a Steam Navigation company so that she and her three sisters spent most of their childhood on the banks of the great rivers of Assam and Bengal (now Bangladesh) where they lived in Narayangunj, a jute trading town.

They had a halcyon childhood. “I always thank God,” wrote Rumer, “that we did not have sensible parents”. This childhood time gave her real love of India that is so obvious in her writing.

She could never remember a time when she did not write. There were no libraries or schools or bookshops in this remote place so the sisters wrote their own. It was a good thing their father said that there were plenty of wastepaper baskets in the house.

The dreaded day came and the girls were sent back to England which felt anything like home and were sent to boarding school – too late. They were twelve and fourteen and could not settle. They went to five schools in two years!

Rumer Godden trained as a dancer in London and then went back to India where she ran a mixed race dancing school. She married and lived in Calcutta.

She returned to Britain for the birth of her two daughters and the publication of Black Narcissus which was met with great acclaim.

Back in India she continued with her dancing school and parted from her husband.

This was now wartime and it was not possible to go back to England so she took her two small daughters to Kashmir where, as she had no money, she rented a little Kashmiri house far in the country by the Dal Lake where they lived cheaply like the local Indians.

The house had no electricity, no running water and no road up to it. It was a full life. She had not only to look after the children but to teach them and to try earning a living by writing and running a herb farm but, as she wrote, “these were years of beauty and contentment”.

Rumer returned to England in 1947 and lived in various houses both in London, Buckinghamshire and Sussex and she remarried. It was at this time that she entered the London and American literary scene.

She sat on book judging panels, gave talks on writing and toured America giving lecture tours. She went to the famous Foyles Lunches and made broadcasts. She was on Desert Island Discs, choosing a four-poster bed as her luxury as she could use it as a sunshade or a raft.

In 1994 she went back to India with her daughter and the BBC to make the Bookmark programme of her life in the subcontinent.

Rumer was a strict disciplinarian over her writing. She worked every morning and most evenings and always in longhand with a fountain pen. She said that as an artist has to dip his brush into the paint so a writer should dip his pen into the ink and this gives time for thought.

She thought many modern books were too wordy as authors just ran away with words on their computers.

She was awarded the OBE in 1994 and won the Whitbread prize for children’s literature, many other awards and her books have been published in over forty countries.

Rumer Godden had many interests but her greatest were for dancing and for Pekinese dogs, which she kept for most of her life, and for children – she ran junior poetry workshops which kept her in touch with the young and entertained her young great-grandchildren to doll’s tea parties where she made miniature food and everyone dressed up.

She also loved opera and good whisky! Rumer studied the great religions of the world and became a Catholic in 1957.

One of her favourite axioms came from an Indian proverb that says – “everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person”. She quotes this in her autobiography A House with Four Rooms.

Rumer Godden lived her later years in Rye, Sussex in Lamb House, once the home of Henry James. In her old age, she moved to Moniaive in Southern Scotland to be with her daughter where she spent the last twenty years of her life, writing and enjoying the river which ran under her study window.

Her last novel Cromartie vs. the God Shiva was published just before she died in 1998.

Rumer Godden has had many publishers in the UK and internationally. However, her main publishers in Britain were Michael Joseph and Macmillan, and in the USA, Viking.

FOR TEACHERS  . . .

Rumer Godden’s English and use of words are considered to be of the highest grammatical standard. Many of her books have been used as A Level text books e.g. The Greengage Summer.

Primary school teachers use her children’s books e.g. The Diddakoi for classes. The Dragon of Og has been a play for primaries and the poetry anthologies Around the Day and Around the Year have been used in schools for many years.

 

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MY REVIEW:

I came across this book quite by accident as I was searching for craft books in our library system's online catalog. When I saw the author's name, I was excited because she is the author of my favorite children's Christmas book, 'The Story of Holly and Ivy.'

This delightful story is the story of a very lonely girl who feels like a complete misfit in her 'foster' family and in her school when she is sent to live in England from India by her father. The reason for his sending Nona Fell away is not disclosed; and the fact that he did send her away causes a great deal of heartache and pain for the eight-year-old.

An elderly great-aunt in the United States sends a Christmas box to England which is supposed to have three Japanese dolls inside. There are only two dolls packed in the box, so the eldest of Nona's cousins, fourteen-year-old Anne, is not given a doll. Seven-year-old Belinda and Nona each receive a doll.

Belinda is an unkind, manipulative child who begrudges Nona's appearance in her home and family. She does everything possible to make her cousin absolutely miserable. One of the things I personally enjoyed in this story was how Belinda finally learned a hard lesson about how to treat Nona and the rest of her family with respect and kindness.

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower each have their own personalities which I believe children will enjoy. There is a lot of discussion between these dolls of Japanese culture and customs.

What made this book show up in my search for 'crafts' is the fact that Nona and her eleven-year-old cousin Tom build a Japanese doll house from the ground up in order for Miss Happiness and Miss Flower to have a place to live.

Details of their challenges and problem-solving in building the doll house were intriguing to me, and I think they will capture the interest of young readers, too. A section in the back matter of the book entitled, 'NOTES', is informative about Japanese customs, traditions, festivals, and Haiku. Also included in this section are diagrams of the plans for the house that Nona and Tom built in the story. There are also stepped-out instructions so that people can make the same house if they wish. Astonishing!

This book has so much to offer readers—a touching story, social studies lessons about the culture of Japan, and plans for how to make a lovely Japanese doll house. Highly-recommended to classroom teachers, librarians, scout/youth group leaders, families, and anyone interested in building a Japanese doll house for or with children.

As mentioned earlier in this post, I borrowed this book from the local public library.

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 Find the links to read more great Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts from middle-grade authors and bloggers at Greg Pattridge's 'Always in the Middle' Blog. 

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9 comments:

  1. Rumer Godden is a very talented writer, and her books on India have been on my TBR for a long time. This sounds a delightful story, and I must get hold of a copy. Thanks for the review!

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  2. I've never heard of this book. Thanks for letting us know about it with your informative review. I'll track a copy down on my next library trip.

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  3. This sounds like an interesting story. It's nice to see classics republished.

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  4. Wow! This sounds really interesting. I love that it includes doll house building, too.

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  5. I just saw this book about an hour ago when I was on FB or Twitter (not sure which). I haven't heard of it before today. But- I do know the Christmas book Holly and Ivy- so that made me excited. This sounds like an interesting book. I will have to check this one out. Thanks for sharing. :)
    ~Jess

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  6. Does this include the original illustrations? I love The Story of Holly and Ivy but am not a fan of the Barbara Cooney illustrations. The original ones are perfect.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by . . . I checked the library catalog for the edition I reviewed. Unfortunately, the illustrator's name is not listed in the catalog entry, and I did not make a note of the illustrator's name.

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  7. How wonderful you found this book in such an unusual way. This looks like an amazing book. I will be checking it out. Thanks so much for telling me about it.

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  8. It's always fun to find another book by an author you loved as a child. This ounds like a fantastic story.

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