Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 120: Ox-Cart Man

I've been waiting to write about this book since the day I started this blog.  Now that fall is in full swing and it is October, I just can't wait any more!  The Ox Cart Man has long been one of my absolute favorite picture books.  There are so many things that I love about this story that I hardly know where to begin.  From its very first line, the Ox Cart Man takes us into the life of a family in early nineteenth century New England: "In October he backed his ox into his cart and he and his family filled it up with everything they made or grew all year long that was left over.  He packed a bag of wool he sheared from the sheep in April.  He packed a shawl his wife wove on a loom from yarn spun at the spinning wheel from sheep sheared in April.  He packed five pairs of mittens his daughter knit from yarn spun at the spinning wheel from sheep sheared in April."  And so it goes.  We follow the ox cart man as packs up the things his family has worked so hard to make and grow throughout the year and brings to Portsmouth Market to sell:  birch brooms, woven linen, candles, potatoes, apples, goose feathers, maple sugar.  He proceeds to sell everything he has brought with him, including the wooden box he carried the maple sugar in, the barrel he carried the apples in, the bag he carried the potatoes in, his ox cart... even his beloved ox.  (I'll admit that part makes me a tear up sometimes.  I know.  I'm a sap.)  When he has nothing left but a pocketful of coins, the ox cart man wanders through the market himself, buying new things for his family to get them through the year ahead.  An embroidery needle for his daughter that had come all the way from England on a boat.  A Barlow knife for his son for carving birch brooms.  An iron kettle to hang over the stove.  Two pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies.  And when he finally returns home to family, we see the whole cycle begin once again.  "His daughter took her needle and began stitching, and his son took his Barlow knife and began whittling, and they cooked dinner in their new kettle... and that night the ox-cart man sat in front of his fire stitching new harness for the young ox in the barn..."  

Hall's prose is beautifully written, and I can't help but feel like I am a part of the story while I am reading it.  Each time, I am overwhelmed by a sense of what life was like in those days gone by, and am in awe of its simplicity and difficulty all at the same time.  The gorgeous illustrations, done by the amazingly talented Barbara Cooney, earned this book the Caldecott Medal in 1980, and they are the perfect accompaniment to Hall's story.  Simple, soothing, telling, and beautiful.  At first, I was worried that my son might find this book boring, but he never has.  I think he, too, is fascinated by how our ancestors lived and the ways they depended on nature and the land for their survival.  Seasons change, years pass, and life goes on, but this book will always be one of my favorites. 


DeliveringGrace said...

We were given this book by a friend from the US and it has proved to be a real favourite with the children-the sort that they know almost by heart. It lead to a real fascination with maple syrup and its production.
Fun to read a review of it.

Lauren said...

I'm so glad you and your children love it, too! Thanks so much for your comment. I can't wait to bring my son to a sugaring house in March so he can see how syrup is made. We love that part, too :)

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