Miracles on Maple Hill

Book cover: 'Miracles on Maple Hill'
Virginia Sorenson

Marly and Joe (ages 10 and 12) are two siblings who have always lived in the city. They and their mother had endured the apparent loss of their father during wartime (unclear which war - perhaps Korean) only to discover that he had been a prisoner of war. The family is finally reunited, but their father has changed; he is bitter, touchy, angry, always tired.

The Kitchen Madonna

Rumer Godden

This is a simple, lovely work, of fine literary quality, about a thoroughly modern brother and sister and their blunt Ukrainian maid, who feels out-of-place in London and misses having a "good place" in the kitchen. A good place, according to Marta is something like this: "In my home, Ukrainian home, we make a good place...A place on top of cupboard, perhaps, or perhaps on shelf. Little place but it holy because we keep there Our Lady and Holy Child." When questioned by the children, she explained further. It wasn't a statue and not a picture. "Like picture but more beautiful.

Homer Price

Book cover: 'Homer Price'
Robert McCloskey

These clever and humorous stories of the adventures of a brainy, problem-solving small-town boy make great reading for grade-schoolers (especially boys) or a terrific read-aloud. This is suitable for rolling-on-the-floor type laughing (not terribly well-suited to bedtime!). A real classic! The sequel, Centerberg Tales is just as good. Older children may also appreciate allusions to liberal naming of townspeople after characters from the Iliad.

Up and Down the River

Book cover: 'Up and Down the River'
Rebecca Caudill

Six year old Bonnie and eight year old Debbie decide early one summer that they want to get rich. Nosing their way through magazines they decide upon some simple investments - selling a few items around to their neighbors and raising ducklings. They keep up the projects all summer, but the rewards don't turn out quite the way they expected. Rejoin the Fairchild family for a charming summertime in a time and place where the pace of life was a little slower and the joys of childhood were many.

Schoolhouse in the Woods

Book cover: 'Schoolhouse in the Woods'
Rebecca Caudill

This second installment in the Fairchild Family Series (which starts with The Happy Little Family) is a charming account of young Bonnie enjoying her first few months in a little one room schoolhouse. She and her siblings enjoy playing with friends in the rural schoolyard, having the teacher stay at their house for a week and preparing for a Christmas pageant. The story makes a nice read-aloud or chapter book for young readers.

The Happy Little Family

Book cover: 'The Happy Little Family'
Rebecca Caudill

The Fairchild family - Father, Mother, Chris, Althy, Emmy, Debby and Bonnie - live in the hills of Kentucky in the early 1900s. We are particularly treated to simple stories of everyday life through the eyes of four-year-old Bonnie: her frustrations with trying to keep up with her older siblings, the love of her understanding father, the importance of "little" things, like sunbonnets and arrowheads. The large text, comfortable length and engaging storyline make it a great choice for young readers.


Book cover: 'Andries'
Hilda Van Stockum

Yet another delightful story to read aloud with your family from one of my very favorite authors. Andries is a troublesome 10 year old orphan who comes to live with his bachelor uncle in a large lonely house near the Dykstra home (which is quite the opposite - small and overflowing with children). Although his reputation as a troublemaker precedes him and is firmly cemented in the townspeople's heads, the Dykstras, who are less quick to judge, discover that he is really kind-hearted, but lonely.

Happy Times in Noisy Village

Book cover: 'Happy Times in Noisy Village'
Astrid Lindgren

The charming and humorous adventures of the children of "Noisy Village" are continued in this sequel, recently reprinted by Bethlehem Books. The children's adventures and creative pranks and business ideas make for a fun family story. Speaking from experience, I can attest to the fact that it's an excellent book to curl up with on a chilly fall afternoon with a couple of little girls on your lap. (My eight year old boy hung around to listen too.)

The Children of Noisy Village

Astrid Lindgren

This story is about a nine year old girl and her friends and brothers. They all lived in Noisy Village, which was really three farms with seven children running around and being noisy which is why everyone called it Noisy Village. In South Farm lived a boy named Olaf and his little sister Kersten. In Middle Farm lived Karl, Bill and Lisa. In North Farm lived two girls named Britta and Anna. They have a few adventures with the grumpy shoemaker, have trouble coming home from school on time and have many other hilarious adventures, but you will have to read the book to find out about them.

The Small War of Sergeant Donkey

Book cover: 'The Small War of Sergeant Donkey'
Maureen Daly

Chico Felippo is a young boy living in a small village in Southern Italy. It is 1944 and most of the war has moved north, but the American Army has a special "Remount Depot" nearby where donkeys are trained to assist the soldiers in the difficult mountain fighting. Chico loves these animals and becomes friends with many of the Americans as well as one particularly beloved animal, "Sergeant Donkey". The entire town suffers from a shortage of food because all of the donkeys which worked the fields had been seized by the Germans earlier in the war.


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