The Barn [NOOK Book]


This moving story historical novel from master storyteller Avi will reach the wide audience it deserves with its beautiful and compelling new cover treatment.

Ben is away at school when his father mysteriously falls ill in the spring of 1855. With no adults to help, he and his brother and sister must take over the family farm in Oregon Territory's rugged Willamette Valley. Despite his siblings' doubts, Ben is determined to build the barn Father...

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The Barn

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This moving story historical novel from master storyteller Avi will reach the wide audience it deserves with its beautiful and compelling new cover treatment.

Ben is away at school when his father mysteriously falls ill in the spring of 1855. With no adults to help, he and his brother and sister must take over the family farm in Oregon Territory's rugged Willamette Valley. Despite his siblings' doubts, Ben is determined to build the barn Father had planned, in the hope of waking him from his silent, frozen state. But will it be enough?

In an effort to fulfill their dying father's last request, nine-year-old Ben and his brother and sister construct a barn on their land in the Oregon Territory.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A departure from Avi's recent sweeping adventure stories (City of Light, City of Dark; Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?), this austere tale set in 1855 tells how the children of Oregon settlers are left to fend for themselves on the frontier. Nine-year-old Ben, the scholar of the family and the narrator here, leaves his Portland boarding school after his widowed father is paralyzed by an attack of palsy. While his older brother and sister work the fields of their farm, Ben looks after his stricken father and laments that his father will not be able to realize his dream of building a barn on their property. As the days go by, Ben becomes more and more convinced that he and his siblings must build the barn themselves. Much of the book (which is illustrated with a few diagrams) recounts the children's step-by-step process of raising a structure that will make their father proud. Only after the enormous undertaking is completed does Ben question the meaning of his labor. Easily read in one sitting, this unembellished story proves to be as intimate as a diary, gracefully revealing its protagonist's keen intelligence, strong determination and secret fear of being separated from his loved ones. Although the novella may not draw as wide an audience as many of the author's previous works, it will gratify those who seek a quiet, contemplative read. Ages 9-11. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Avi shows how complicated family love can become when tragedy strikes. Ben, the hero, an extraordinary nine year old is sent from his 1855 farm to be educated so that he can fulfill the great promise his family sees in him. When his father is paralyzed by a stroke, Ben returns home to begin another kind of learning. Devastated at first, when he is forced to acknowledge the severity of his stricken father's illness, Ben eventually masters his own feelings of helplessness, succeeds at care taking, and finally establishes communication with the man who is imprisoned by his illness. This emotionally packed book is simply written so those young adults who are not strong readers can be exposed to a thought-provoking literary adventure.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-After their father suffers a ``fit of palsy,'' three motherless children try to keep their struggling farm going in 1855 Oregon. Although nine-year-old Benjamin is the youngest, he is the cleverest of the three, and also the one who truly believes that the man can recover. His sister Nettie wants to marry and start her own life, but agrees to help the family for as long as she can. Harrison is much bigger and stronger than his younger brother, but not quite as quick thinking. After Benjamin figures out a way to communicate with his father, he convinces the others that if they can build the barn that the man had been planning, he will somehow find a reason to live. The family relationships are well drawn, as the siblings react to each situation in their own way, though Benjamin's obsession with curing his father makes him a hard character to empathize with at times. Ultimately, the boy is forced to question his own additional motives for building the barn. While focusing mainly on his characters, Avi presents a vivid picture of the time and place, including fairly involved details about how the barn is constructed. This novel may not have the wide appeal of some of Avi's earlier titles, but it is a thought-provoking and engaging piece of historical fiction.-Steven Engelfried, West Lynn Library, OR
Hazel Rochman
Rooted in a one-room family cabin in Oregon Territory in the 1850s, this is a classic survival story of kids who suddenly find themselves on their own without adults to care for them The terror is there from the first line: "Your father has met with an accident," nine-year-old Ben is told at boarding school. He must go home to help his 13-year-old brother, Harrison, and 15-year-old sister, Nettie. Mother died the year before of diphtheria; another brother died on the trail coming west. Now Ben, Harrison, and Nettie stand uncertainly in front of the cabin: "We hardly knew what or how to be." Not only must they farm the family claim and bring in the crop, but they must also care for their father, who is paralyzed. He's as helpless as a baby, unable to speak or move his body or control his bowels At first Ben is "mortified" at having to feed and clean his father. But then it becomes routine. In fact, "his filth proved that Father still lived. . . . In this way did I begin to learn how heaven and earth do mingle. Ben's spare, first-person narrative tells of the special relationship he had with his father--their own "private mischief." Now, his father can't talk to him. In a chapter of almost unbearable intensity, Ben does finally get his silent father to communicate. Ben asks a question and screams in anger, "If you mean "yes", you "must" close your eyes!" And then, his father does close his eyes. Is it an accident? Or does he mean "yes" The question Ben asked was whether Father wanted his children to build the barn he had been hoping to build himself. Ben persuades Harrison and Nettie that they must build it to give Father a reason to live and that they must build it alone, without the help of neighbors, as a gift to their father. Nettie tries to make Ben see that Father is dying anyway, but Ben denies it. With Father propped up in a barrow, they mark the site, fell the trees. They use the oxen to haul the logs, then they cut, strip, and split them. While Father wastes away, they pile rocks for the foundation, and raise the walls and roof. When the barn is finally done, it is "nothing much to look at and probably not truly square," yet it holds them there. And Father is dead. Did Ben build the barn for Father? Did Father get Ben to build it That yoking of opposites is in every scene, almost in every sentence, of this plainspoken novel. The name Ben means "son of." The story shows that the child is father of the man; that dying and building are one cycle; that silence can be eloquent language. Nothing is certain. Every statement opens out, even the Lord's Prayer: "Our father" is dead, and he's in heaven, and he's in the barn. Heaven and earth do mingle The characters have the same complexity. Ben is very smart--that's why he was the one sent to school--yet he hates being special, and he envies his brother's size and strength. Through Ben's memories, the character of his beloved father emerges as far from perfect. Father never quite built a home; he said he never had much "luck," moving his family from Vermont to Illinois to Missouri before coming to Oregon. Father didn't build the barn himself. It's ironic that he now helps Ben find the self-reliance to do it for them both The writing is understated, almost monosyllabic, with a casual tone and concrete imagery reminiscent of the poetry of Robert Frost. It's interesting that the most detailed part of the story is the mechanics of the barn building. Work, especially manual work, is getting more attention in children's books. Here Avi particularizes the struggle to make a place that is home Avi is one of our most versatile and prolific children's writers. He never does the same thing twice, always experimenting with form and theme and setting, from thriller and realistic fiction to radio play and graphic novel. This small, beautiful historical novel has a timeless simplicity. It's the best thing he's done. Like MacLachlan's "Sarah, Plain and Tall" 1985, the story reaches from home to the universe.
From the Publisher

Praise for The Barn

ALA Notable
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545633420
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 210,122
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Avi's work spans nearly every genre and has received nearly every major prize, including the Newbery Medal for CRISPIN: THE CROSS OF LEAD and Newbery Honors for NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH and THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE. Avi lives in Denver, Colorado. You can learn more about him online at


Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014


    I will take care of you for a bit then can take you to my clan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Book

    We read this book in class and it is very amusing. I think all readers should read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 1999

    Great Book!!

    The Barn is a great book! it inspired me to go and enjoy my life as it is because you never know what life will be like in the future. Read this book to know how people lived the life back in the days where you made everything by hand.i really enjoyed this book!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2006

    Sommer, I loved this book!

    I absolutely loved this book! I wasn't expecting the ending, but this book is the first book in a long time that has made me cry. I would recommend this book to anyone. I am going to probably read it again and again. It is a short book with a lot of passion and a lot to offer.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2004

    Bad Book

    Horriblity bad book wehn I read it i had to stop too sad

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2004

    The Barn

    If you like farming and mystery you'll love the barn. It has to be a good book because it is by AVI. The main character is Ben. He is in school because he is really smart. Then his father gets really sick when he was plowing, so Ben had to come home and take care of his father. Ben has two siblings, Harrison and Nettie. While Ben is taking care of his father, he talks to him and figures out that he can answer him by blinking his eyes. Then his father is getting worse, and Ben has a great idea. If they build a barn, he thinks his father will get better.So they built a barn, just the three of them your going to have to read the book to find out what happend. I think it is a great book!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2004

    A Very Good Book

    The Barn is a great book it keep you on your feet with all of the suprise. It's good for the hole family to read and enjoy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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