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Worth Hardcover – June 1, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–As 11-year-old Nathaniel rushes to bring in hay ahead of an approaching thunderstorm, his leg is crushed beneath a wagon when the team of horses, spooked by lightning, lurches out of control. His father brings one more conflict to their late-19th-century Nebraska homestead in the person of John Worth, a boy taken off the orphan train to help take up the slack. The family is already tense about previous financial failures and the loss of a daughter. Now fence cutters exacerbate the land-use conflict between ranchers and farmers by freeing cattle to trample the crops on which the farmers' survival depends. The author convincingly conveys the boys' gradual realization of the value of one another's friendship. Other themes include the importance of reading and education, meeting challenges head on, relying on and playing a responsible role in your community, and recovering from loss. A special strength of the book is the characterization of Nathaniel's mom, whose fierce anger is emotionally balanced by her dedication to her family's well-being. Although she works as a tinker, she lets her husband take credit in deference to the mores of the time. A satisfying piece of historical fiction.–Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
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*Starred Review* Gr. 3-7. LaFaye's novel is one of the first to tell the Orphan Train story from the viewpoint of a kid displaced by a newcomer. Even worse than the pain that 11-year-old Nate felt when his leg was crushed in an accident is rejection by his pa, who takes in young John Worth to pick up Nate's work on their small farm. Nate's angry first-person narrative is brutally honest, and, at first, he is bitterly resentful of John, an orphan who lost his family in a New York City tenement fire: "Just 'cause he lost his father didn't mean he had a right to mine." Through Nate's narrative comes a sense of the grueling daily work, the family struggle to try to hold on to the land and avoid failure. In addition, there's some late-nineteenth-century history about the local wars between cattle ranchers (who want grazing land) and farmers (who need room for crops), and in an exciting climax, Nate and John ride together to warn the farmers and prevent the fence-cutters from causing a cattle stampede. Only an awkward metaphor about the Greek myths seems patched on. The short, spare novel doesn't need the heavy heroic parallels; it tells its own story of darkness and courage. A great choice for American history classes. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Third in the Nissa great literature series for juvenile readers and revolving around Nathaniel Peale and his whole family.Read more