HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Sod House Adventure or The Children Who Stayed Alone
Author: Bonnie Bess Worline
Illustrator: Walter Barrows
Publisher: Scholastic Book Services, republished 1971
Language level: 1
(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 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Worline, Bonnie Bess. Sod House Adventure or The Children Who Stayed Alone (published in 1956 by David McKay Company Inc.; republished in 1965 by Scholastic Book Services, a division of Scholastic Magazines Inc., New York City, NY). Phoebe Dawson and her slightly younger brother Hartley live in a sod house on the windy Kansas prairie with their homesteading parents, Francis and Marian, and their five little siblings, David, Tessie, Martha, Robbie, and baby Mary Ann. Father went to town for supplies and has been gone for four weeks. Then Mother is called miles away to take care of a sick neighbor, Mrs. Stephens. Thus, the children are forced to be left alone in the sod house on the prairie with Phoebe and Hartley responsible for taking care of the five younger kids plus doing all the chores on the farm.
At first there are only small problems to solve. However, Father and Mother are absent longer than expected. What happens when a huge late spring blizzard strikes? How do they react when Indians appear knocking on the door? And will Mr. and Mrs. Dawson ever make it back home? This adventure story for children, which if I remember correctly was recommended by Laurie Bluedorn, emphasizes the resourcefulness and intelligence of the two older youngsters while keeping the reader on edge throughout. It is great historical fiction for middle school students to read. Faith in God and prayer are both important in the Dawson family as they persevere against hardships on the wild prairie and grow stronger as a result.
The reader will find a few gently “dramatic” moments, but nothing overly scary for a youngster, and some cute, heartwarming moments with the younger siblings. While a reasonable amount of difficulties occur resulting from the normal interplay of brothers and sisters, especially when cooped up, the story portrays all the children in a positive light, showcasing their helpfulness, reliability, and ability to help others, while focusing on the test of man’s will and determination against natural disasters or man-made problems. There is a sequel to this book called Sod Schoolhouse. It was written by Worline and her son Courtner King and takes up the story of the Dawson Family right where it left off.