Not-So-Recent-Reads: The Chestry Oak

April 29th, 2010 • Kate

chestryoakAs some of you might have seen, there’s an article or such on me in the latest issue of Writers Digest, in which I talk about one of my all-time favorite books, The Chestry Oak. Very few people seem to have ever heard of this title — the author, Kate Seredy, is much more known for her Newbery Honor book The Good Master and her Newbery Award winner The White Stag.

But I loved The Chestry Oak as a child, and it holds a place of honor not just on my bookshelves, but in my heart.

Today I got an email from a woman who also loved The Chestry Oak, and wrote (minor spoiler):

The part I wanted to reread most of all was Michael’s conversation with his father and Nana, the one where mention of his mother led Michael to recall a shattered figurine, which had been a beautiful woman but was dirty and hollow inside. That was the first book I ever read as a child that suggested that a parent could be less than perfect. I never forgot that image, and I never forgot the planting of the chestry oak seedling at Michael’s new home in New York.

Thanks for bringing back memories of a terrific book from my childhood.

I’m so grateful to Mary for reminding me again how much this book meant to me. I blogged about it before, but I think the readership of my blog has likely changed some in the last two years, so I’ll pose the question again — in a slightly different way for any of my devoted followers.

What book did you adore as a child or teen that caused you to become a pusher of that author’s works on others? Also, or alternatively, what book does it surprise you that most people — even devoted readers of kid lit — haven’t heard about?

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13 Responses to “Not-So-Recent-Reads: The Chestry Oak”

  1. Cyndy Aleo Says:

    Madeleine L'Engle. I read A Wrinkle in Time for school in 6th grade and spent the next 30 years of my life reading everything I could get hold of, including out-of-prints. Meg Murray was the original geek girl, and when my daughter got old enough to start reading her YA books, I handed them over with glee. Needless to say, we were both floored when not one, but TWO of her teachers had never even heard of the book. What is the world coming to when teachers don't know Madeleine L'Engle?

  2. Shannon Says:

    The first book that woke me to the world of reading was Watership Down. I will always ALWAYS love that book.

    My mom is no longer alive. She used to read books out loud on long trips. I will always remember the A Wrinkle In Time series because even when I read to my kids, I could still hear her voice in my head. What a gift she gave me.

  3. Amanda Says:

    Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. I can remember reading it in 4th grade, so immersed in it I didn't want to go to recess. The vivid language and descriptions drew me in.

    I also loved Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light.

    My daughter recently discovered Winkle in Time and I've enjoyed her journey into the books.

    to Cyndy: wow–teachers not knowing Madeleine L'Engle? that's terrible.

  4. Sandy Shin Says:

    For me, it's Patricia C. Wrede's MAGICIAN'S WARD and Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF. They've become my favorite writers because of those series.

  5. Becky Mahoney Says:

    I was a huge fan of Roald Dahl and Susan Cooper especially. I read Matilda and James and the Giant Peach about a dozen times each, and The Dark is Rising must have been my favorite series then. I was also a huge S.E Hinton fan in middle school, but The Outsiders was definitely my favorite.

    Amanda, I read Island of the Blue Dolphins in elementary school, too! I remember loving that book, though I totally cried when the heroine's dog died.

    I also have a favorite children's author that I didn't discover until a few years ago that I wish I'd known about when I was little: Diana Wynne Jones. I would have loved the Chrestomanci series when I was a kid. I love it now, but I would have been obsessed then!

  6. Mari Miniatt Says:

    The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury was a yearly read for me. I would start it a few days before Halloween.

  7. Mandy Says:

    The Wind in the Willows has a very special place in my heart. I remember loving it and reading it multiple times in 2nd and 3rd grade. I felt so accomplished for having read a chapter book (it was my first real chapter book).

    This probably explains why I was so horrified when they replaced Mr. Toad's Wild Ride with the Winnie the Pooh ride at Disney. I will never forget when I did my orientation "Be Our Guest Tour" for my summer job there. Our guide said "Does anyone know why Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was replaced?" Everyone, of course, shook their heads. The guide then asked, "Well can anyone name five characters from the story?"

    I raised my hand and very promptly answered, "Mole, Ratty, Mr. Badger, Mr. Toad, and Weasel."

    The guide stood there, thunderstruck that this high school girl had known the answer, and then said, "Umm, could anyone else have named five characters from the ride?" Everyone answered no. When he asked the same question about Winnie the Pooh, everyone could list five characters. This, he explained, was why they had changed the ride. People didn't know anything about Mr. Toad anymore.

    It still sort of shocks me, even five years later, that people don't know about the Wind in the Willows. I always keep a copy of the book nearby, even though I'm a grad student and can read much "harder" books. In so many ways that book represents my ability to read, and I will never give it up.

  8. Beth Cato Says:

    I started reading the new Writer's Digest last night and did a double take when you mentioned Kate Seredy. I own a few of her books, acquired as library discards years ago. I adore the illustrations.

    What book would I push? I'd say the Carbonel books by Barbara Sleigh. They are 1950s British middle grade books about a royal cat, magic, and witches. My hometown library had the first two books, Carbonel: The King of Cats, and The Kingdom of Carbonel.

    I'm ecstatic that the whole series has now been reprinted–I own them all, including a third book I haven't read yet. The books really have a similar vibe to the Harry Potter series, so thoroughly British and magical. Plus… talking royal cats!

  9. Trish Says:

    My favorite childhood book was Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. I read that book over and over and WISHED I could be Julie and live with a wolf pack.

  10. DeAnna Says:


    This question came up at the Pikes Peak Writers' Conference last weekend – the librarians in Chamberlain, SD, had a bookshelf in the corner of the "big kids" section with The Hobbit, The House of Stairs by William Sleator, and More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. Food for survival 🙂

  11. Joe Iriarte Says:

    That's an awesome story, Mandy!

    (As an aside, the folks at WDW were fools to replace a whimsical, imaginatively decorated classic ride like Mr. Toad with that snoozefest Pooh ride.)


    I am personally responsible for dozens of sales of Ender's Game, if not hundreds. I read it when I was fourteen and thought it was amazing. I gave it to friends who hated to read, and they loved it too.

  12. Red Boot Pearl Says:

    This was such a hard question, I started thinking about all the books I loved when I was a kid: A little Princess, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Frog and Toad, and in middle school I loved The Giver.

    But I think my all time fav was James and the Giant Peach–I don't know if it was my love of peaches or the absurd that really made me connect with this book (maybe both) but it definitely stands out in my memory.

  13. Susan Says:

    I push the Green Knowe books and Ibbotson's books on people all the time. I've also been pushing Sylvia Waugh's Space Race and the companion books on people. All of those are the sort of MG I love and want others to love, too. LOVE THEM OR ELSE! I say. And then they run.