Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Favorite Book Remembered

I've always been fascinated by the courage and tenacity of people who defy the laws of the land, and the expectations of those around them to help other people - whether it's those who rescued Jews from the Nazis, or who helped escaped slaves in the pre-Civil War US. I've been reading a book titled Bound for Canaan, which is a history of the Underground Railroad. This morning it brought to mind a book I haven't thought of in quite a while.

The book is Thee, Hannah by Marguerite de Angeli. It's the story of a Quaker girl in Philadelphia shortly before the Civil War. Hannah longs for material things she doesn't have and that her family doesn't believe are needed - frilly dresses, and fancy bonnets. The book came to mind because the section of Bound for Canaan I was reading was about Isaac Hopper, who was not born Quaker but who joined the Society of Friends later in life - adopting the modes of dress common to Quakers of the time including wearing a "broad-brimmed Quaker-style hat". That phrase, brought to mind this much loved book of my youth, and now I can't get it out of my head.

I remember the story of Hannah's desire for fancy clothes and I remember being fascinated by the language. The thees and thous which the family used seemed both quaint and fascinating. A childhood friend was Quaker, and I remember being surprised that her family didn't use thee and thou in their speech. Although they made up for that by calling their father "Father" instead of "Daddy" or "Dad".

I remember that the edition we had a hardcover which was covered in dark blue cloth. Inside were the most exquisite pictures (the picture above came from - the book is still in print). What I don't remember is the part of the story that deals with Hannah's family helping an escaped slave. I'm going to have to dig through the box of children's books I have at home and see if this book is there, so I can read it again. And then I will, probably have to share it with my nephews.

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