Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ox-Cart Man

Ox-Cart Man
by Donald Hall with pictures by Barbara Cooney/ published 1979 by Viking Penguin

I'm over the moon that finally my son has taken to this sweetheart of a book. The winner of the 1980 Caldecott Medal, the pictures are quaint and charming, but it is the story that really sets my imagination ablaze. I love tales that transport a reader back to another time, and this one is told so well and so "of a moment", that it really couldn't be better. The moment begins...

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.

... and it goes from there. The man is packing up all the things the family has to sell at market: mittens the daughter knits from the wool culled from their sheep, brooms the son whittles, linen the mother makes from the flax they grow, potatoes the father harvests, etc. I love how the story conveys self-sufficiency and an overwhelmingly GREEN message about taking only taking what you need and living off the earth. Very Little House on the Prairie. Very cool. It offers a gentle and slowly-paced message for kids in this era of poorly written movie tie-in books that use sound effect buttons and sparkle stickers to turn kids on.

I love that after the dad's gone to the market and sold everything from the bags the potatoes were in to the ox itself, he walks the ten days home with his new purchases (namely: a knife for his son, a needle for his daughter, a kettle for his wife and a bag of wintergreen peppermint candies for all). When he gets home, they start all over again... building a new ox-cart, raising a baby ox, etc. And of course, everyone enjoys a wintergreen peppermint candy. Such a delightful read.

Also by:
Christmas in the Barn
Chanticleer and the Fox
The Crows of Pearblossom
Wynken, Blynken and Nod
The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes

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