The Barnby Avi
The schoolmaster says nine-year-old Benjamin is the finest student he's ever seen-fit for more than farming; destined for great things someday But his father's grave illness brings Ben home,from school and compels him to strive forsomething great right now to do the one thing that will please Father so much he'll want to live. But first Ben must convince his… See more details below
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The schoolmaster says nine-year-old Benjamin is the finest student he's ever seen-fit for more than farming; destined for great things someday But his father's grave illness brings Ben home,from school and compels him to strive forsomething great right now to do the one thing that will please Father so much he'll want to live. But first Ben must convince his older sister andbrother to work with him. And together, they succeed in ways they never dreamed possible.
Praise for The Barn
New York Public Library Best Books of the Year
IRA Teacher's Choice
"This small, beautiful historical novel has a timeless simplicity . . . . Like MacLachlan's SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL, the story reaches from home to the universe."Booklist
"A spare, classic story of family and community."--THE HORN BOOK
"[The] narrative is lovingly honed, the interaction of the characters drawn with sensitivity and skill."--KIRKUS
"Thought-provoking and engaging."--SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Read an Excerpt
Your father has met with an accident." Schoolmaster Dortmeister, his wife by his side, spoke gravely to me in the best parlor of their house in Portland, where I was boarding at school. The only other time I had seen that room was when my father had left me there, seven months before. That was also the last time I had seen Father.
Mrs. Dortmeister put the back of her small hand to my cheek and said, "Benjamin, I understand it's not so very bad."
"But you're needed at home," the schoolmaster said. "Your sister has come to take you.
Father had brought me to Portland for Mother's sake. To soothe my upset over leaving our farm, he told two tales for every mile the mule trod on the journey. He recited his best jokes, too taking on voices, making sounds and gesturing as if he had ten tongues and fifteen hands. We were so full of our usual private mischief that I was much comforted. He promised to fetch me for a holiday in four months' time. He never came.
So of course I wanted to rush off and find Nettle; yet I would not leave the parlor without permission.- They were fair in that place but strict.
"Benjamin," the schoolmaster went on, "you are the finest student I have ever had." He always called me Benjamin, though I preferred what my father called me: Ben. But that name, Ben, Mr. Dortmeister told me, was not dignified. He said I must put it aside since as far as he was concerned I was destined for higher things. "You may be only nine years old, but you're fit for more than farming. You
know your letters, sums, and geometry better and are wiser than all the rest ofmy students combined."
Mr. Dortmeister had round gray eyes and a nose too big for his face. Tufts of hair grew out of his ears. I had always thought him comical. But when I looked up at him that time, in his best parlor, I thought he seemed about to cry.
As for me, my head was crowded with worry about Father and thoughts of Nettie, who was outside, waiting impatiently, no doubt. At the best of times, Nettie was not a patient soul. Nothing happened fast enough for her.
Mrs. Dortmeister said, "Your sister suggests that you'll be home only a short time. So we shall look for your early return."
I replied, "I am sure I'll return," though I said it mostly because I thought that's what the schoolmaster wanted to hear.
"Do," he said. "You'll always be welcome."
I made a move to go, but Mr. Dortmeister held me by speaking again. "Benjamin,"he said, "you must tell your father that I agree with him, that your gift of learning is particular fine. He will know then how truly sorry I am to lose you."
I said, "I'll tell him, sir."
"Wish your father a sound recovery. I'll retain the school fees against your return."
"Yes, sir," I said, and once again made a motion to leave.
Still, he would not release me. "Benjamin," he said, "we want to pray with you now." He and his wife bowed their heads. So I did the same.
"Our Father," the schoolmaster began, "who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
"Amen," he ended, as did his wife.
"Amen," I echoed.
Then he sighed. "Very well, Benjamin. Your sister is waiting. We bid you farewell." Young as I was, he shook my hand, and we parted like two refined gentlemen. At last I turned and dashed away.
I found Nettle pacing up and down by our wagon. She was tall and thin with hairblack as night and a sweet face that never" could hide thoughts. The moment I saw her peering out from her poke bonnet, I knew Father's situation worse than I'd been told.
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