word craft


Prairie School

Prairie School

illus. by Bill Farnsworth
Harper­Collins, 2001

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What’s this book about?

It’s the 1880s. Noah works hard on the fam­i­ly farm and roams free on the Col­orado prairie. One day his Aunt Dora arrives to give him some school­ing. Noah does­n’t think he needs it. What use is read­ing on the prairie? But what Noah dis­cov­ers will change his life forever.

Story Behind the Story

Oth­er than my research there is no plan, no log­ic to my read­ing plea­sure. I read what grabs my atten­tion. So it was that I came upon a col­lec­tion of rem­i­nis­cences by folks from Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry pio­neer days, or at least home­stead­ers. I don’t know how the sto­ries were gath­ered, but they were pub­lished, ran­dom­ly, I believe, in news­pa­pers. One of these tales con­cerned a young boy who lived on a prairie. He did not go to school and sub­se­quent­ly did not know how to read. But as he recalled he was taught to read by his vis­it­ing aunt, who was in a wheelchair.

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Awards and Recognition

  • Oppen­heim Toy Port­fo­lio Gold Award, 2004


“This I Can Read Chap­ter Book is a good intro­duc­tion to his­tor­i­cal fic­tion.  … Avi’s clear, sim­ple lan­guage nev­er sounds con­de­scend­ing, and the pic­tures show the tough kid’s bond with those who love him. The adults are a bit too nice and under­stand­ing, but new read­ers will enjoy both Noah’s rebel­lion and his awak­en­ing to the aston­ish­ing facts, sto­ries, and poet­ry he can find in books.” (Book­list)

“Nine-year-old Noah loves liv­ing on the Col­orado prairie in the 1880s where he helps his par­ents with all of the work. When Aunt Dora comes from the East to teach him how to read, he sees no need to do so and refus­es to coop­er­ate with her. How­ev­er, his aunt refus­es to give up. She asks Noah to show her the land even though he warns her that her wheel­chair may make it dif­fi­cult to get around. As he wheels her along, she con­sults the book in her lap and begins to tell him about the nat­ur­al things around them. Impressed by her knowl­edge, the child decides to learn to read and write, and real­izes that his aunt has opened a world beyond the prairies to him. Warm, soft-edged illus­tra­tions cap­ture the inti­ma­cy of the lov­ing fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships and the vast­ness of the land­scape on dark, star­lit nights and glo­ri­ous, sky-blue days. A com­bi­na­tion of dou­ble-page spreads, full-page, and half-page illus­tra­tions appeal­ing­ly rein­force the mood and action of the text. This gen­tle sto­ry with a great mes­sage that is nice­ly woven into the dai­ly events would make a pleas­ant read-aloud as well as a good addi­tion to easy chap­ter-book collections.”

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