Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Posted by Alysa Stewart
Remember when I said I was going to check this one out? Well I did.
It really is lovely.
Donald Hall is a poet. I learned this from the back flap -- the text doesn't rhyme, it is just lovely and lyrical, full of imagery and perfectly complimented by the illustrations. The story is from the oral tradition, an everyday folk tale, if you will.
The book chronicles a year in the life of the Ox-Cart Man, who lives in New England at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It starts with his preparations for going to market and comes full circle as we see the family making the goods and living daily life through the rest of the book.
There was something enchanting about it. I began to see where the book was going, but was still charmed to read on. I just loved the way this book portrays with elegance the ideas that life continues day after day, much the same one day to the next, but with small changes and little improvements that make all the difference and mark the years. The overarching theme, never stated, is that we're all working together. Taking care of the earth and taking care of each other.
I definitely recommend this book to parents and teachers who want to give children a sense of what it was like to be a child in those days -- might you spend your time gathering goose feathers or whittling birch brooms? I can see it being a wonderful follow-up to a unit on pilgrims, the revolutionary war, or the origin of our country unit. Not everyday was Thanksgiving for early Americans. What would it be like to walk for ten days to get to the market? Would you be excited to go, or sad to leave home for so long? There is just such a richness of material here. I'm fairly dying to write it into a reader's theater.
Two thumbs up. Plus a wink and a smile.