Miracles on Maple Hill

Miracles on Maple Hill

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Miracles on Maple Hill

Author: Virginia Sorensen

Illustrators: Beth and Joe Krush

Publisher: Odyssey Harcourt Young Classics, republished in 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0152047191 (hard cover)

ISBN-13: 978-0152047184 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 0-15-204719-0 (hard cover)

ISBN-10: 0-15-204718-2 (paperback)

Related website: www.HarcourtBooks.com

Language level: 2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Reading level: Ages 8 and up

Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Sorensen, VirginiaMiracles on Maple Hill (published in 1956 by Harcourt Inc., 6277 Sea Harbour Dr., Orlando, FL  32887).  Ten-year-old Marley lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her father Dale, mother Lee, and twelve-year-old brother Joe.  Her dad has come home from having been a prisoner during the war, but he’s not the same.  He’s moody and tired and seems as cold and dead as the winter outside.  So the family decides to spend the spring and summer at Maple Hill Farm, the old place where Marley’s great-grandmother had lived and where Marley’s mother used to visit as a child, up in the corner of Pennsylvania’s countryside.  There they meet Mr. and Mrs. Chris, Grandma’s neighbors whom Marley’s mother remembers from her childhood visits.  At first, Marley and Joe are afraid that they will miss their life in the city.  Joe had wanted to join the bad at his city school, but the little school at Maple Hill doesn’t have a band.   But they begin to have many adventures sugaring with the Chrises, fixing up the old house, and experiencing other “miracles.”  Will Daddy get any better?  Will Marley’s family return to Pittsburgh or will they decide to stay at Maple Hill?  And when Mr. Chris gets very sick and has to go to the hospital, what will happen to him? 

     This 1957 Newbery Medal winner is a delightful story that is deserving of the award.  There are a couple of common euphemisms—gee and golly, one reference to chewing tobacco, and a mention of glaciers “millions of years ago.”  I especially enjoyed the way the truant officer ended up handling the time when Marley and Joe were kept home from school to help the Chrises with their maple sugaring.  One professional reviewer wrote, “The role model for girls is horrific. The girl is weak, cries, moans, etc. The boy is tough and strong. It stinks of horrible gender-casting.”  One reader reviewer echoed this sentiment, saying, “While Miracles on Maple Hill has a very interesting story line, with family tensions portrayed in a sensitive, but honest way, the sexism made it difficult for me to stay with the story….When Joe and her father are off fishing with the delightful older character Mr. Chris, Marly and her mother do ‘woman things’ at the house together. I would not have wanted my daughter to spend much time reading books such as this when there are so many excellent books without the sexist stereotypes now.”

     I can see how a femi-nazi or someone raised on femi-nazi propaganda would reach this kind of conclusion, but honestly it gets old hearing those who may disagree with traditional roles for boys and girls yell “sexism” every time they don’t like the way girls are portrayed.  Not every family is raising their daughters to be “I am woman, hear me roar.”  And recent studies have suggested an actual biological basis for some of the emotional differences between males and females.  Most of the reader reviewers liked the book, except the one mentioned previously and a couple of “kid reviews” which said that the book was too boring and not exciting enough.  Of course, every book, even a good one, may not appeal to all people.  However, my experience is that a lot of kids whose minds have been numbed by the helter-skelter, hooey-phooey, hocus-pocus, harum-scarum, hokey-fenokee type of stories like Harry Potter and Goosebumps often don’t have enough attention span left to enjoy a real story.  Barb Brandeis and Deb Ekstrand in And the Winner Is…: A Guide to Newbery Medal Winners from a Christian Perspective recommend Miracles on Maple Hill as a book which “Chronicles the joys of simple living.”

This entry was posted in Newbery Award Winners, period fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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