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Blue Willow by Doris Gates

Blue Willow (1940)

by Doris Gates

Other authors: Paul Lantz (Illustrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,330179,173 (4.08)1 / 54
A little girl, who wants most of all to have a real home and to go to a regular school, hopes that the valley her family has come to, which so resembles the pattern on her treasured blue willow plate, will be their permanent home.
  1. 00
    Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: The main character in each book is a 10-year-old girl whose family has just moved to a new place. Both books have a strong sense of place.
  2. 00
    The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (HollyMS)

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Janey Larkin lives a nomadic life, under the care of her father and stepmother. Her greatest and only treasure is a blue willow ceramic plate that once belonged to a mother she can no longer remember. As her family sets-down near her father’s current job of picking cotton, Janey begins long for a change to “stay as long as they want” but achieving that dream might cost her greatest treasure.

Janey’s journey is brilliantly displayed. She matures through her friendship with Lupe, and through her education, gaining an understanding of courage and what’s important. Watching her struggle with the difficult things around her is part of the “realistic” nature of the story. While the ending is a bit – Shiny – where everything works out perfectly, the journey of how she gets there has danger and difficulty, and her start in life is not rosy-pink and happy.

It should be noted that Lupe, Janey’s friend, is clearly of Mexican origin. Surprising for the era, Lupe and her family are written with respect and accuracy to their culture but without any of the stereotypes so prevalent during the era (or even today). Lupe is a well-rounded side-character, an excellent part of the story and a refreshing take on non-European cultures that make up America.

The prose is simple, with easy-to-read words and both writing and subject are suitable for children ages 6+.

Note: Doris Gates received both praise and criticism for this book. One of the first “realistic” children’s books, Blue Willow entered the scene during a debate between teachers, librarians, and authors regarding realism vs. imaginative in Children’s Literature. In dealing with poverty, intenerate workers, illness, and even death, Blue Willow helped pave the way for books for children that accurately reflected the world they already knew. Gates is considered a major influence and pioneer in this area. ( )
1 vote empress8411 | Apr 2, 2019 |
Janey Larkin can't remember when she's lived in the same place for more than a year. Her family has to keep moving so that her father can find work. But Janey longs for a real home and the chance to make friends.
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
Ten-year-old Janey Larkin, her father, and her stepmother are among the migrants who made their way to California in the wake of the Dust Bowl. The family moves frequently as Janey's father follows the harvests. Janey carries her ideal of home with her in the treasured blue willow plate that belonged to her mother. This move is different, and Janey finds herself longing to stay in this corner of the San Joaquin Valley near the river that looks so much like the scene in the blue willow plate.

I'm sorry that I missed this book during my childhood. I would have loved it if only for the connection to my grandmother's blue willow dishes. Those dishes are one of the strongest memories I have of meals in my grandmother's kitchen. This story could be used as supplemental reading for a unit on the Great Depression and/or the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. However, the book does contain some mild stereotyping of Janey's Mexican American neighbors, the Romeros. Janey also acts out occasionally in a way that would be considered inappropriate by today's standards. ( )
  cbl_tn | Mar 14, 2017 |
This is a sweet story of a young migrant girl living in California during the 1930s. The author has done a wonderful job of bringing her characters to life, and presenting a believable narrative in a style similar but not exactly like Lois Lenski or Laura Ingalls Wilder. Appropriate for grammar school children or adults, a nice read. Recommended. ( )
  fuzzi | Nov 29, 2016 |
A sweet little dust bowl story with nice characters, but not a lot of substance. A happy, fluffy Grapes of Wrath for Kids, if you will. ( )
  electrascaife | Sep 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Doris Gatesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lantz, PaulIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To my Father and Mother
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Janey Larkin paused on the top step of the shack and looked down at her shadow.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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