HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Yankee Trader: Ben Tanner – 1799
Author: Marjorie Chickering
Publisher: Funk and Wagnalls, 1966
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Chickering, Marjorie. Yankee Trader: Ben Tanner – 1799 (published in 1966 by Funk and Wagnalls, a division of Reader’s Digest Books Inc., New York City, NY). It is 1799, and sixteen year old Ben Tanner, a big, strong boy quite capable of dealing with the physical hardships of the backwoods, lives on a farm near St. Johnsbury, VT, with his Pa, Ma, younger brother Will, and little sister Goody. Will likes to read, but Ben wants to see the world and is jealous of sullen, scrawny Plin Edwards, the boy who helps Luther Chickering as he travels all over New England trading goods in the larger settlements like Boston, MA, and Portland, ME. Then Plin breaks his leg, so Ben gets his chance to go with Luther.
Though he tries his hardest while on a trip to Portland, Ben seems to make a lot of mistakes and unintentionally gets into some trouble. Does he end up in jail? Can he make it back home? And will Luther ever want to take him again? Yankee Trader: Ben Tanner – 1799 is really enjoyable historical fiction set in the early days of our nation with no objectionable material. There are a few common or colloquial euphemisms (doggone, blasted, gosh, golly, tarnation, confounded, and drat). Ben is said to have sworn a couple of times, but no actual swear words are found. And some references to smoking and dancing occur.
The plot moves along a bit slowly at times, but it had no trouble holding my interest, and the descriptions of life on a New England farm, the work of a trader, and the businesses in a busy shipping town provide a good introduction to the post-Revolutionary War period. While Ben and his family are fictitious, author Marjorie Chickering writes, “The reader may feel surprise that my last name and the name of the trader in this book are the same—Chickering. The facts are these: Late in the 1700s, Luther Chickering and two brothers sailed from England to Boston….Luther made his way up the Connecticut River to the frontier town in the Green Mountains called Danville, Vermont.” He was one of her husband’s ancestors. I really liked this book.