Society Reading Feature #3

This month's featured girl: Kirsten

From the American Girls Club Handbook:

Project One: Celebrate Midsummer

After the long, cold winter, the Midsummer celebration gave people an occasion to feast and enjoy the outdoors. Celebrate a Swedish Midsummer just as the Larsons did. here are some ways you and your friends can create your own Midsummer celebration.
1) Decorate your home with greenery. Swedish immigrants placed birch branches above their doors as a welcome sign to visitors.
2) Make a picnic to take outdoors. Kirsten's picnic might have included rye bread, cheese, rice pudding, strawberries, and milk.
3) Swedish Midsummer celebrations always include music! After your picnic, play singing games, dance, or share favorite songs with your friends.
4) Girls like Kirsten made crown of flowers and wore them all day long on Midsummer. At night, they put the crowns under their pillows to help them dream about their future.

Make a flower crown
You will need: about 24 flowers with sturdy stems; trim the stems to 3 inches. Scissors, small knife, paper clip.
1) Make a slit through the middle of each stem. To do this, lay the flower on a flat surface. Push the tip of the knife through the middle of the stem and make a vertical cut.
2) Pass one flower stem through the slit of another. Be sure to pull the second stem all the way through the first.
3) Keep passing flower stems through each other until you have a chain long enough to go around your head.
4) To make the chain into a crown, use the paper clip to attach the last stem to the stem of the first flower.

Did you know?
In Sweden, Midsummer is celebrated on June 24. On this day it stays light all night above the Arctic Circle! After the long winter, Swedes move outside for a celebration of light and warmth. To celebrate Midsummer, everyone packs picnics and puts up the majstang (MY-stahng) for the celebration dances. In English the word majstang became maypole, even though Midsummer has mothing to do with May--maja in Swedish means "to decorate with greenery" and stang means "pole." On Midsummer, families and friends spend all day outside feasting and celebrating. When Swedish immigrants came to America, many celebrated Midsummer even though other Americans did not. One Swedish worker was angry that he was expected to work on Midsummer. "What a wretched country--don't they even respect the holidays?" he declared. But pioneer families like the Larsons continued to enjoy their holiday just as they had in Sweden.

Project two: Recite a Rhyme in Swedish

Kirsten's first big assignment at Powderkeg School was to recite a poem in English. Imagine how difficult it was to Kirsten to recite a poem in a foreign language! Here's a chance for you to learn how Kirsten felt.

1) Memorize the rhyme "Rida, Rida, Ranka," below. Read the Swedish words--the syllables in parenthesis tell you how to pronounce the Swedish words.
2) Say the Swedish words over and over. As you memorize the poem, pay attention to the rhythm and the sounds of the words. They will help you remember the poem!
3) Recite your poem in front of a friend or family member. Stand straight and tall and hold your arms still at your sides, as if you were standing in front of Miss Winston. Begin by stating, "I will recite 'Rida, Rida, Ranka.'" Be sure to speak slowly and clearly.

Rida, rida, ranka (REE-da REE-da, RANG-ka)
Hästen heter Blanka (HES-ten HET-air BLANG-ka)
Vart skall du rida? (VART skahl doo REE-da?)
Rida sta' och fria (REE-da sta ahk FREE-a)
Till en liten piga. (TIL en LEET-en PEE-ga)

Ride, ride, on my knee
The horse's name is Blanka
Where are we riding?
Riding away to propose
To a little maid.

Kirsten recited Swedish rhymes when she bounced Baby Britta on her knee. If you have a younger brother or sister, bounce him on her on your knee as you practice your rhyme.

Did you know?
When Kirsten and Singing Bird first became friends, they didn't know each other's languages. Instead, they communicated by drawing pictures in the sand or by pointing to things. As they became better friends, Singing Bird taught Kirsten words like tepee and moccasin, and Kirsten taught her words like pretty and friend. Teaching English words to Singing Bird helped Kirsten learn English, too. Many words from the languages of Native Americans have become part of English. Chipmunk, hickory, moose, raccoon, squash, and woodchuck are some of the Native American words we now use in English. Words like these were important to Singing Bird and her tribe. Their lives depended on knowing and respecting their natural surroundings. As pioneers learned to live on the frontier, these words became important to them, too.

Want to know more?

Fiction books set in Kirsten's time:

"Wagon Wheels" by Barbara Brenner
"Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink
"Prairie Songs" by Pam Conrad

Nonfiction books about Kirsten's time:
"Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography" by William Anderson
"My Prairie Year" by Brett Harvey

Movies set in Kirsten's time:
Caddie Woodlawn
Island of the Blue Dolphins

Music from Kirsten's Time
Songs sung by Jenny Lind, who was known as "The Swedish Nightingale." She toured the U.S. in the 1850's.
Swedish hyms and folk songs, such as "Halso Dem Därhemma" (Greet Them at Home) and "Amerikavisan" (American Song).
American fold songs, such as Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home."

Special places to visit:

Scandia, MN 55073
This historic site served as inspiration for the setting of the Kirsten stories.

Black Hawk State Historic Site
Haubery Indian Museum, Route 5
Rock Island, IL 61419
The site of Sauk and Fox Indian villages