Skylark Innerbase Essay

1990 words - 8 pages

Another chance to offer children an amusing and sneakily urbane approach to history comes in Meghan McCarthy’s “Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs.” Note that subtitle: Greenwood was not, in fact, the first person to make and market the devices. What he did was add a tight steel band that held earmuffs in place – and, crucially, when he was just 19 years old, go to the U.S. Patent Office. But why on earth did that make him so famous that there is now a Chester Greenwood Day celebrated in his home state of Maine? McCarthy, the author of other innovative nonfiction picture books including “City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male,” has ...view middle of the document...

The book glosses over all the moral complexity that, these days, books for children about animals in captivity usually embrace. Consider Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Medal-winning novel “The One and Only Ivan,” and the picture book in which she told the actual events behind the novel, “Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla.” In both, Ivan’s years of suffering, the misery of his confinement in a shopping-mall display and lack of access to life in the wild with members of his own species, elicit in child and adult readers alike a compassionate ache. The zoo where Ivan ends up is only paradise, we understand, in contrast to a cage at the mall.
One reason Walker gets away with such an unnuanced telling of the story is that she avoids ascribing feelings to Winnie, who for all we know spent her life longing desperately for the Canadian forest of her birth. Walker simply relates what happened. “I didn’t see her until after I’d shot her mother,” the man who is selling the cub tells Harry, but that little unpleasantness is swept quickly away. “Harry could care for a bear; he was a veterinarian,” we are told on the next page.

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