Monday, November 17, 2014

Playing Sardines

Playing Sardines by Beverly Major was published in 1989, so it might be difficult to find, but would be well worth the trouble.

One of my pet peeves about children's literature today is that far too much of it has been dumbed down.  While I understand that there need to be options for children who are just learning to read, I believe children's books can meet that need without sacrificing the quality of the writing.

Told through the eyes of a young girl, this is the story of a warm summer night in a firefly-lit neighborhood.  Children gather on the lawns and in the street to play together while parents sit on the porches and relax.  As it grows later, the younger children are bathed and put to bed and the older children begin a game of Sardines.

If you've never played Sardines, you're missing out.  One person hides and everyone looks for them.  Sounds like Hide and Seek, you say?  Yes, it does, but with one important difference:  the game is not over when the hider is found.  The game does not end until everyone has found the hider.  As each seeker finds the hider, they quietly hide with him/her.  The last person to join the group becomes the hider.  This is particularly fun on the dunes at Dillon Beach, but that's a story for another time.

Beverly Major could have told this story as simply as I explained the rules for Sardines.  Instead. she created a vision for her readers using descriptive language, rich vocabulary and a variety of sentence structures.  The illustrations by Andrew Glass are muted and warm, giving the reader the feeling of a warm summer night when everything seems magical and when you look back on it later, it all seems like a dream.

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