Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Miracles on Maple Hill

Miracles on Maple Hill and the sugaring party in Little House in the Big Woods almost make me want to live in Vermont or anywhere else in maple country. Then I think about the cold winters and isolation, and get over it.

Miracles on Maple Hill is not just about sugaring and maple sap collection. I remember reading it in elementary school. However, a reread brought several surprises. I didn't remember that the father was interned in a prison camp during his military service and that his mental illness was the main reason the family stayed on Maple Hill.

It's also a quiet evocation of the importance of nature in children's lives. While this has gained more importance in recent years (Richard Louv's The Last Child in the Woods is an example), it's fascinating to read this in a book published in 1956.

Nature is at the forefront of the book; it's lovely and quiet, although there are definite adventures and suspense. I wasn't in the mood for quiet when I started the book; I considered putting it aside for another book. Once the family settled in for good on Maple Hill, I became more involved with the story.

It's not a sweet nature story by any means: the father is suffering from, if not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which wouldn't have been named then), then a severe form of depression following his internment in a prison camp. I'm assuming he was an American POW; he is not called that specifically by name, and the war in which he fought isn't specified. Miracles on Maple Hill was published only 11 years after the end of World War II; however, it was published only three years after the Korean War armistice was signed. I gathered that Father had only recently returned from the war; I doubt that the family had been dealing with his illness for at least 11 years. The Korean War would have definitely not been far from Virginia Sorensen's audience's minds.

Miracles on Maple Hill won the Newbery Award in 1957.

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