The 1952 Newbery Award winning book, Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, is a charming tale of a puppy and his two children. Little Ginger comes to responsible ten-year-old Jerry Pye and his dreamy nine-year-old sister Rachel, only to be stolen a few months later, and the book meanders through the Pye’s home, Jerry’s school room, and the little New England town in the search for Ginger.
What I liked. Now that I have a little baby boy, I have to admit that re-reading this book made me love the sibling relationship between Jerry and Rachel, and hope that my baby would be a kind older brother who liked talking and imagining and playing with his younger sibling like Jerry did, making up adventures of Martin Boombernickles. Throughout the book, Jerry and Rachel really are partners, earning money to buy little Ginger and trying to solve the mystery as to where their little dog went.
What was interesting and what were some limitations. While Estes can write a charming scene, and the book definitely had an overarching theme (where did Ginger go?), sometimes the chapters or even the scenes didn’t seem to do much with each other. It made for a book that I liked reading, but (and this was a re-read for me) one that I wasn’t very compelled to race to the end to find out what happened. On the one hand, I thought that Estes’ ability to capture the stream of consciousness of children was really remarkable—how stories flow into their heads while conversing or doing something else. It was very believable, yet on the other hand, it also slowed the story down a bit.
Similarity to other Newbery winners. Animals play a big role in several of the previous Newberies: Dr. Doolittle, Smoky the Cowhorse, GayNeck the Pigeon, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Rabbit Hill, and King of the Wind. And like Adam of the Road, the lost dog who (spoiler alter) returns again is one of the great tropes of children’s literature. (And for good reason: I mean who doesn’t love Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey?)
What it teaches me as a writer. I thought that Estes did a great job creating a dynamic extended family with extreme particularities: Mr. Pye was an older father who was the nation’s expert on birds. Mrs. Pye was the youngest mother in town, so much so that her own mother had a baby six years after Rachel: 3 year old Uncle Benny who accompanies Jerry and Rachel on many of their adventures. I loved how in particulars and extremes there was such a charming and likable whole town and family.
Have you read Ginger Pye? What are your favorite dog books?
*Note* This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*
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