Introducing Planet Silas' November '09 Book of the Month:
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall ; pictures by Barbara Cooney.
Winner of the Caldecott Medal back in 1980, this is an oldie (relatively speaking), but a goodie. I picked up a copy at a library book sale recently and thought it might be something Silas would take interest in later on. I was wrong: He was interested in it immediately.
In this look at a farming family in 19th century New England, a father journeys 10 days to a coastal market town to sell the goods and food his family has made and grown over the course of a year. Through the items the man loads into his cart, we learn that the family spent March tapping sugar maples, and April spinning, knitting, and weaving the wool sheered from the sheep. We learn when each of the crops were planted, and that not even the feathers that fall from the geese are waisted. Each family member contributes and creates. When the ox-cart man returns from the market, he is without his cart and even his ox. But he has brought back a few simple items that will make the work that his family does that much easier. They quietly slip back into their simple rhythm: Cooking, candle making, whittling, planting, shearing. And the ox-cart man begins building a new cart for the young oxen in his barn.
As beautiful as this book is, both in words and pictures, I didn't expect Silas to take to it the way he has. He sits there quietly while it is read and studies the pictures. We talk about how the man had to walk because there were no cars or bikes. We talk about the fact that we still do some of the same things that that family does (like knitting and making things and growing food). Silas loves the pictures of Portsmouth the best and has told me that he's been there and in fact lives in one of the buildings pictured.
It is easy for a young child, whose entire day is spent in imaginative play, to place himself in such a book. But the mood of this book extends this sort of immersion to the far more closed and cynical minds of adults too. And it does it without you even realizing.
We will be coming back to this book often.
6 years ago