Monday, September 13, 2010


Miracles on Maple Hill, Virginia Sorensen, Harcourt Inc, 1956, 232 pp

 I know I have some readers who like to read my reviews of children's books and I am sorry I have been remiss on posting them lately. For a while I was trying to post about a good family read every Sunday but suddenly my Sundays got full of family events, etc. So here we go with a family read on Monday!

Miracles on Maple Hill won the Newbery Award in 1957. It is a lovely story with a fast pace, believable characters and conveys much truth. I found it unique among the Newbery winners I have read so far because the loveliness is not cloying and the truths are nicely incorporated into the story, never coming across as "lessons." Virginia Sorenson is an extremely fine writer. Best of all, I was not bored once while reading it.

 Marly is an exuberant and perceptive young girl with an annoying older brother who truly does "know it all" and likes to be first. As Marly puts it, "Boys were queer. They seemed afraid they'd stop being boys altogether if they couldn't be first at everything." Still, she loves Joe and does her best to keep up with him.

 The big problem in their family is their father. He came back from the Korean War in bad shape: nervous, irritable and depressed. The solution is to go to their mother's childhood home in upstate Pennsylvania where maple syrup is made, where life is simpler and Daddy can recover in what Grandma calls "all outdoors."

 Of course it all works out but along the way the children meet unusual but wonderful people both young and old while they have the kinds of adventures that can only be had in rural areas. I think kids today, who are barely allowed to play outside and have most of their activities planned for them and supervised by adults, might just enjoy a story about kids who get to roam the "all outdoors," face a little danger and have adventures. The book did not feel old fashioned, it just felt rural.

 This is not a story about being a good child. Instead, Marly comes to understand herself, life and people by interacting with the unique qualities, both positive and negative, of individuals. Plus, the reader learns how maple syrup is collected and made.

 (Miracles on Maple Hill is available in paperback on the Newbery shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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