Saturday, July 02, 2005

Norma Johnston

One of my favorite YA writers is Norma Johnston. Every few years, I reread her The Keeping Days series: The Keeping Days, Glory in the Flower, The Sanctuary Tree, A Mustard Seed of Magic, A Nice Girl Like You and Myself and I. Sadly, these books are out of print so to read them you need to search libraries and used book stores. It will be worth the search. I have no idea what is necessary to bring out of print books back into print, but it is a shame that this series, particularly the first four, are no longer available.

It's the turn of the century -- the year 1900! And Tish Sterling wants to be a writer. She thinks she's qualified because she loves to write and she "feels things deeply." The first four books portray life at the turn of the century; they also deal with issues such as prejudice, fear, family, friendship, belief, and love. But most importantly, they deal with Tish becoming a writer. It's not easy - dreamy write in your diary writer writing; Tish has to work at it. Part of the glory of these books is Tish resisting the idea that writing is a craft, requiring discipline. These books show Tish growing as an artist, with all that being an artist means. The first four books cover a two year period. The last two jump forward to the start of World War I; the main characters are those who were born in the first four. In these last two, we see the artist that Tish has become. The last two are also about secrets and honesty (as well as topical issues such as war and women's rights).

For those of us who are total Johnston junkies: Johnston has other historical series, set during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the 1920s; all these families come together in The Carlisle Chronicles Series (books: Carlisle's Hope; To Jess, With Love and Memories; Carlisles All (set in the early 1980s, this family is descended from all these other families; Jess is Tish's great grand niece.))

Other strengths of Johnston: the ability to juggle a huge cast of characters. Showing modern themes in historical settings. Examining the meaning of family, belief, loyalty, love, friendship, dependence and independence.


ThatDeborahGirl said...

I have always wanted my daughter to have this series and I'm determined to get it for her this Christmas. Thanks for providing all the titles and the info about the other series! Awesome information about one of my old favorites. : )

Jessica said...

Whaaaaat?!! More to Tish's family in other eras?!! I love Norma Johnston. Now, thanks to you, I have a new quest! (And I have used up today's quota of exclamation points. :( )