Ethan's father, a farmer who is better at planting than at managing his finances, sends his 9-year-old son to work their debts to the family's creditoEthan's father, a farmer who is better at planting than at managing his finances, sends his 9-year-old son to work their debts to the family's creditor, a local storeowner and respected business man. The other bound servant, an Irish boy several years older than Ethan, is the focus of the storekeeper's violent conception of child disciplining. Ethan, who sees beyond the rude stereotypes that the other farm workers have against the Irish, befriends the older boy and slowly pieces together their master's unknown dark side.
Set in the mid-to-late 19th century, the novel's historical setting is both clear and remarkably present. There are very few instances of gratuitous "this is what people did back then" moments, and the author does an excellent job of making the rural, pre-industrialized setting feel both normal and familiar. The strong primary characters and useful secondary characters combine with the setting to flesh out this ambitious novel about indentured servitude, ethnic discrimination, and fervent delusions of righteousness....more
This story about complex and confusing family ties neatly blends the stories of two families that struggle with loss and maintaining personal identiesThis story about complex and confusing family ties neatly blends the stories of two families that struggle with loss and maintaining personal identies despite tragedy and grief. After a farming accident cripples a farmer's son in late-19th-century Nebraska, the farmer brings in a boy from the Orphan Train. As the parents and both boys grapple with their losses and their changing roles in the family, they also try to maintain good relations with the rest of their community despite dangerous schisms between the farming and ranching families.
The boys' relationship comes to a satisfying (if convenient) point at the end of the book, but the parents' relationship remains mostly untouched. The reader can see and feel the resentment between them, but they're never allowed to tell their own stories. Although it would have been nice to see those characters develop, it didn't detract from the story--if anything, focusing primarily on the boys made the story less unnecessarily complicated.
The characters are drawn thoroughly and convincingly, which makes this book well worth reading....more
This book fits into a genre that perplexes librarians around the country: picture books for older readers. This wordless picture book is absolutely aThis book fits into a genre that perplexes librarians around the country: picture books for older readers. This wordless picture book is absolutely a book for readers in middle and high school (and older), addressing a mature, disturbing topic and including illustrations that portray the worst aspects of humanity. The black and white drawings tell the story of slave trade and trans-Atlantic transportation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The artwork is powerful and moving, telling its story with a strong voice that does not need any words....more