First Farm in the Valley: Anna's Story

Author(s): 
Anne Pellowski
Illustrator(s): 
Roseanne Sharpe
Copyright: 
1982
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Series: 
A Latsch Valley Farm Book
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
194 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

It’s back in print! One of my favorite series for young children, the Latsch Valley Farm series (formerly called Polish American Girls series), is being reprinted. The first in the series, First Farm in the Valley: Anna’s Story is now available from Bethlehem Books with lovely new illustrations.

Enter into the world of six-year-old Anna and her large Polish family as she grows up in rural Wisconsin during the 1870s. A true story, very close in time and location to Little House in the Big Woods, First Farm in the Valley offers a different perspective, the adventures of a little girl growing up in a large Catholic family that joyfully welcomes newcomers to the valley and actively supports their growing community.

The story is filled with the warmth and humor of family life as well as the reality of sadness and death that was so very present to children living in that time and place. The unique customs and traditions (and the fact that Anna herself speaks Polish!) are quite fascinating.

Anna is a happy little girl who chooses to do what is right, even when it's difficult. When she fears they will be attacked by wolves, she bravely helps her brother take the sheep to the pasture. Along with her sisters, she selflessly and generously plans a special name day surprise for her mother. With a grateful heart, she expresses joy and wonder at the simply joys in life - like sparklers and ice cream.

Anna is not the only character who exhibits admirable qualities worth emulating. Her father is also a wonderful example of goodness and virtue. For example, when an argument erupts among all the fathers about where to build the new school after the schoolhouse burns down and her father is insulted, he holds his temper. A hardworking, industrious man, he likes to share in the simple joys of life with his children, like playing games with them or buying sparklers from them even if he thinks they are “a little foolishness.”

One lovely aspect of the story are the many examples of the family living their Catholic faith. Even if the family does not always understand it, they see the hand of God behind the many events in their lives - from the neighbor’s field that is spared during a hailstorm to the overwhelming grief of the many loved ones lost to diphtheria.

Not just a little girls' story, this compelling story would be of interest to all ages.

Editor's Note: It's quite interesting that we have available to us three true stories for children that take place within about 50 miles and 15 years of each other: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1864-1865, Downsville, Wisconsin), Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (early 1870s, Pepin, Wisconsin) and First Farm in the Valley by Anne Pellowski (1876, Trempealeau County, Wisconsin). These stories would make great reading together and if you ever find yourself visiting this very lovely, largely undeveloped area of Wisconsin, there are a number of related historic sites worth visiting.

Anna mistakenly thinks that an Indian woman delivers her baby brothers. Parents will want to clarify this misinformation.

Additional notes: 

Recommended reading age 8-12; Suggested listening age 5-Up. Of interest to older children and boys as well.

Review Date: 
11-28-2008
Reviewed by: