Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklySanders spins an invitingly atmospheric tale about a rural family in early-19th-century Indiana. The four Goodwin children and their parents savor the semiannual visit from the peddler, who stays to supper and spends the night. To them he is a ``mystery man.'' He heralds his arrival with notes sounded on a silver flute, tells wondrous stories and bears treasures that conjure up faraway places: fragrant spices, silk shawls, ivory combs, even a whale's tooth. Sanders's gentle chronicle communicates the excitement that members of such an isolated community must have felt at the sight of a visitor; moreover, he weaves in suggestive facts about pioneer life. For example, an aside lists the children's morning chores, ``fish to catch, grapes to gather, hogs to chase in the woods''; the peddler describes the newly invented steamboat, ``a boat that runs on fire.'' Cogancherry (who illustrated Sanders's Warm as Wool ) floods her large watercolors with warm autumnal tones. Her palette becomes repetitious, however, and the flavor of her pictures edges on the saccharine. It is Sanders who imbues the volume with its pervasive sense of mystery amid the everyday. Ages 5-10. (Sept.)
School Library JournalGr 2-4-Introductory historical fiction as it should be-exciting, real, and memorable. As the Goodwin family eagerly waits for the traveling man who brings mysterious treasures to come to their Indiana village, the four children finish their chores and imagine what treats he might bring and what stories he will tell. When at last Merchant Meeks arrives on horseback with a huge pack and an even larger appetite, they settle down to hear tales of whales and steamboats and to buy calico, iron forks, a brass pen, and other treasures. They eagerly handle all of his wares and are astonished at such objects as a ship in a bottle, spectacles, and a compass. When the last item is packed away and bedtime is inevitable, the children sample maple sugar, bid everyone goodnight, and snuggle under their quilt. This is a warm look at the pioneer experience.In times of vast shopping malls, it is good to remember how special a visit from the peddler must have been. Sanders captures the family spirit in strong images and vivid descriptions. Cogancherry's warm, autumn-gold, full-and double-spread paintings glow as the characters take on a life of their own. Although not as poignant as the collaborators' Warm as Wool (Bradbury, 1992), this book belongs on the shelf with Brinton Turkle's Obadiah the Bold (Puffin, 1977) and Ann Turner's Katie's Trunk (Macmillan, 1992).- Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Emily MeltonSanders has written an appealing story set in a time when America was young, life was simpler, and one of the most important events in the life of a pioneer family was the long-awaited arrival of the itinerant peddler. The four Goodwin children and their parents are thrilled when the "mystery man" comes to their log cabin, bringing a profusion of wonderful and pragmatic gewgaws, knickknacks, tools, toys, and treasures. The peddler also always brings important, amazing news of the world beyond the Goodwin's tiny frontier farm. Sanders' narrative is charming and expressive, conjuring up vivid, authentic images of the American frontier and conveying a sense of the simple but often difficult life of the typical pioneer family. Cogancherry's warm, autumn-hued illustrations are clever, humorous, and evocative. Each is filled with precise visual details that realistically convey the look and feel of a small Midwestern settlement in early America. Adults will enjoy reading this delightfully illustrated, beautifully told story almost as much as children will enjoy hearing it. A perfect bedtime or story-time choice.
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