Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen -- Children's Classic

This month's pick for the pre-1960 Children's Classic Challenge is the 1957 Newberry winner Miracles on Maple Hill. Marly's Daddy has recently returned home from the war where he was a prisoner. He is tired and sick and not the same Daddy he used to be. Mother suggests that Daddy should go live on her grandmother's old farm in the country to recover. Mother and the children will join him on weekends and school vacations. Marly and her older brother Joe love the beautiful, hilly countryside immediately. They love learning how to make maple syrup with their neighbor Chris and learning about the flora and fauna of their new home. Marly wishes that Daddy will get better. Marly counts her miracles one by one as the seasons change on Maple Hill. 

This is a sweet, simple story with a powerful message. It's rare to find a children's book that deals gently with the issue of PTSD, especially from a period when it wasn't well known. The story is told from the perspective of a child who doesn't understand what her father has been through and doesn't dwell much on the past. She looks forward to the future, which is a good message for all of us. She believes that miracles do happen and that Maple Hill is the best place for miracles. The plot is interesting enough to have held my attention and kept me reading longer than I had intended. The description of Maple Hill is amazingly detailed. Though I've been to a sugar shack and lived in New England almost my whole life, I could easily imagine Maple Hill (which is in Pennsylvania) and everything Marly was experiencing. It was fun to view the world through an eager, innocent child's eyes. Marly can be a bit annoying in her eagerness and abundance of energy but it's precisely her eagerness and innocence that makes her appealing. The Chrises are wonderful people, larger than life and I can see them popping off the page. The hermit also leaps to life. The rest of the cast of characters are fairly bland. It's easy to see why this charming book won the Newberry. It's a good read-aloud for beginning readers and read alone for younger middle grade readers and great nostalgia for those who may have grown up in a more simple time and place.

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