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The One-room Schoolhouse: Stories About the Boys Hardcover – May 25, 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (May 25, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679417869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679417866
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,571,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There are 103 stories in this small book, divided into six sections. No story is longer than two-and-a-half pages, and there are no named characters--they are merely identified as a mother, a minister, a grandfather and "the boys" of the subtitle, a gaggle of farm kids whose collective perspective is related in these snippets. The terse, reticent structure and tone of this collection--the prose is plain and unadorned--are perfectly suited to Heynen's homely paean to rural American life. Disengaged from any recognizable narrative, the moments recounted here--the instant when electrification first brightens a kitchen, the approach of a tornado, the death of an animal--possess a lonely, existential quality, as if, indeed, the story of which they were once a part is now gone. Yet what remains with the reader are the magical impressions of childhood. For example, in "Eye to Eye," the "youngest boy" sneaks into the pen where a pig is giving birth and stares right into the piglet's eye the moment it is born: a certain intelligence--and innocence--are mutually acknowledged in an instant, and the boy realizes he has been "somewhere no one else will ever have to know about." But for Heynen ( The Funeral Parlor ), the boy would be right.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

The essence of American boys' practicality, perversity, and sweetness memorably captured in a hundred brief, reverberant tales of farm life, some reprinted from an earlier collection by poet Heynen (You Know What is Right, 1985). Divided into six parts, Heynen's stories catalogue the daily brutality and beauty that shape the character of ``the boys,'' five or so brothers and their friends roaming on their fathers' (``the men's'') hog and corn farms in some unspecified midwestern state. They help birth calves--saving the life of a heifer and her calf by cutting up a second unborn calf in utero and removing it, piece by piece, to free the first--and rescue dogs, whose tails they chop off in an effort to make the motley pups acceptable to their fathers. They steal a watermelon from a town woman's garden (``Gotcha'') and blame the man who sneaks up on them and turns them in: ``Good people don't crawl on their hands and knees through the tomatoes to catch boys stealing.'' In ``Dancing with Chickens,'' they sneak into the coops in the early morning and clap softly until the chickens start to follow the beat; then the boys dance with the chickens until ``they got dizzy or heard someone coming. They didn't want anyone to see them doing this. Dancing with chickens was the only dancing the boys ever did. How would someone watching know...they weren't just following?'' And in ``The Grandfather,'' the boys shoot a mourning dove whose cooing is preventing their well-loved cancer-stricken grandfather from resting and ``brought the dead bird inside and held it up for their grandfather. They extended their arms toward him, each of them holding part of the birds' wings between his fingers, so he could see that this gift was from all of them.'' The boys form a perfect chorus of cruelty and kindness--and Heynen is a Hemingway of farm life. Exquisite. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
I discovered this book while rummaging around in my high school library and fell in love wiht it almost instantly. Most of these stories are short enough to fit on a postcard, and I don't think there's a proper noun anywhere in the book. These characters are merely "the boys"--but they wouldn't even have to be *boys*, as far as I'm concerned. The stories are about tiny events - electric lights, rat-tails, the coming of spring - but Heynen, with just a few deft words, gets you to see and feel them, and opens up all kinds of wellsprings. But I'm babbling; the stories speak for themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on September 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of Jim Heyden ever since a friend introduced me to his The Man Who Kept Cigars In His Cap not long after it was published. He is a master of the one or two page sketch that illuminates a sliver of human behavior.
In this collection, you feel as if you're listening to a keen observer, a quiet storyteller reminscing about childhood on a midwestern farm - corn, pigs, cows, chickens i.e. very diversified farming. The characters consistent primarily of the boys, the youngest boy, the men, with guest appearances of the preacher, town boys, and grandfather.
Whether you're reading about the preacher who passed gass, the gypsies at the old school yard, grandfather teaching the boys to make firefly flashlights, the youngest boy hiding in a dip until a dandelion seemed to breath, hunting June bugs with old ping-pong paddles, you'll enjoy the honesty, earthiness, innocence, and style of these stories.
Literature that will change the world? No. Literature that will be known in a century? Probably not. But for pure delight, especially if you were raised on a farm, this book is great fun.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zenbob on May 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Heynen has been writing about "the boys" for years; this is a collection of the many stories he has written. "The boys" are an indeterminate number of boys growing up in the rural Midwest. In the course of their days, they find insight into many aspects of life, death, love, friendship, and an amusing number of encounters with animals and small town bureaucrats (if there is a distinction). Humor ranges from a chuckle to laughing out loud, and poignancy ranges from a knowing nod to fighting back tears. This is lovely writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
I probably can't describe this book any better than the above articles and reader reviews, one reason being that this book represents an example of truly original writing. Heynen's style is truly his own. (To compare his style to Ernest Hemingway's---as one newspaper review does above---is simply lazy and misleading.)His stories are spare but often very poetic. There are not a lot of details, but there is always the right detail, often presented in a way that will stay with you (I doubt I'll EVER forget the image from "Eye to Eye".) In short, a tremendous book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Anctil on January 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unable to rate due to this item was a gift. Given to a historian who seemed very pleased with the book .
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