The Sally Series

Away Goes Sally, Five Bushel Farm, The Fair American, The White Horse, The Wonderful Day
Author(s): 
Elizabeth Coatsworth
Illustrator(s): 
Helen Sewell
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Series: 
The Sally Books
Binding: 
Paperback
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The Sally Books by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Away Goes Sally (pgs 117), Five Bushel Farm (pgs 142), The Fair American (pgs 134), The White Horse (pgs 168), The Wonderful Day (pgs 139)

In our house, we always have at least two read-alouds going: one that I read to the kids during the day and the other in the evening that Dad reads to the kids before bed. We do this year-round, so even in the summer-time we’re doing our read-alouds. My kids particularly like a series of books read to them – either books by the same author, books about the same characters or books about the same theme.

Just as we finished our “regular” school year this year, we received the Sally series by Elizabeth Coatsworth. We liked this series so much, we have talked Dad into reading them again at night later this summer!

Sally, an indomitable orphan growing up in the state of Maine during the 1790s with aunts and uncles, is a wonderfully drawn character whose “Pollyanna” attitude toward life never seems fake, but rather that of a girl who has a warm heart, living in a loving family. These books span just a few years but include bits of information about the French Revolution and the Barbary pirates marauding the Mediterranean. We learned so much not only about rural life “back then” but these books also set us off on rabbit trails to learn about the French Revolution, the French-Indian Wars, and the African pirates and the despotism of the sultans of the era.

The first book, Away Goes Sally, sets the stage for the other books. It’s 1790 and 10-year-old Sally lives with her aunts: Nannie (the eldest and thus, in charge and very domineering), Esther (the youngest), Deborah (the quiet, shy, amenable aunt). Two uncles are also in the house: Joseph (head of the household) and Eben (lazy but lovable). The five adults, all siblings, work hard to give Sally a life full of love and faith in Massachusetts. A cousin invites the family to immigrate to the “wilds of Maine” where land is abundant and fertile. Exactly how Uncle Joseph gets Aunt Nannie to move is the plot – and did we wish we were Sally along for the ride!

Five Bushel Farm starts out in Maine with Sally’s relatives, the Hallets. Cousin Ephraim has found an orphan who needs love and brings him into his house, which is anything but loving. Once Sally and her aunts and uncles get settled in Maine, they bring the orphan to their loving home as one of the aunts goes off to marry. Friendly Native Americans and building a farm are described in great detail; finding the perfect spot for their farm, and the reason behind the name of the book, create a picture of putting down roots in more ways than one.

The French Revolution comes into play in the third book, The Fair American. Pierre, the son of a courtier, must flee his family estate just before villagers, fired by revolutionary fever, set it ablaze. Escape from France means boarding a ship where we finally re-meet Sally and Andrew. I loved the way Coatsworth linked the French Revolution to peace-filled America.

A year after the adventures aboard the Fair American, Sally and Andrew convince Aunt Nannie to allow Sally to set sail again, this time for Italy. The White Horse opens with Sally and Andrew sailing into the Mediterranean on a seemingly easy voyage. An easy voyage until the ship is attacked by pirates, the captives taken to Morocco, and imprisoned in a sultan’s palace. How the characters co-exist with the Muslims in a sultan’s palace is the point of the novel. Sally’s love of life helps all around in these trying times and the conclusion is exciting in this, the longest book of the series.

The series ends with The Wonderful Day. Sally is about 16 or so and finding it hard to be the “lady” Aunt Nannie would like her to be. Still full of love and life, Sally starts the day with great optimism which quickly turns to dismay when Sally discovers that her Uncle Joseph is in financial trouble. “Saving the day” is Sally’s job as the day and troubles compound. This book brings up an interesting idea of trust, honesty and how easy it could be to dupe those who believe everyone is as honest as they are.

This series is suitable for independent readers about age 8 and up. It proved a great read-aloud series for my 6 and 10 year old boys and my 9 year old daughter. We all loved the books and they fit well with our study of American history this year, reinforcing what we learned.

Review Date: 
6-18-2009
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