Lumber Camp

Lumber Camp

by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, James Bernardin

To Ruby, there is nobody in the entire world more wonderful than her pa — her log-riding lumberjack pa, who calls her "my little jewel" and comes home smelling of spruce and fir. And there's nothing Ruby would rather do than follow in her father's large bootprints, working in the lumber camp.

But a lumber camp is no place for an eight-year-old girl. She


To Ruby, there is nobody in the entire world more wonderful than her pa — her log-riding lumberjack pa, who calls her "my little jewel" and comes home smelling of spruce and fir. And there's nothing Ruby would rather do than follow in her father's large bootprints, working in the lumber camp.

But a lumber camp is no place for an eight-year-old girl. She belongs in school, learning how to read and write. It is there that she discovers another passion-for the world that opens up to her in books.

Then, when circumstances suddenly change, Ruby fears she has lost the two things she loves most. Through her struggle, she discovers in herself the courage, the kindness, and the talent she so admires in her father.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Lumberman Pa calls Ruby his "little jewel" in this little gem of a novel. Life in the 1912 Vermont logging camp is difficult, but Ruby is encouraged to go to school. She discovers she loves books and plays school with her nine younger siblings, practicing to be a teacher some day. Pa imparts his wisdom, too, such as how gray jays are said to be the souls of deceased lumberjacks. One day Pa's spiked boots are sent home. He was killed riding logs downriver. Ruby's family leaves the camp to move to a rundown house in town. Ruby stops going to school so that she is able to watch her brothers and sisters while her mother works. She misses books; she misses her father. Then she befriends a lonely old woman and realizes that though her family is poor, they have plenty of love. When she sees a gray jay, Ruby takes it as a sign from Pa to accept the man who is courting her mother. This beautifully written novel evokes turn of the century Vermont. The slender length and soft pencil illustrations suggest chapter book format, but the language and subject matter are more suitable for a somewhat older audience. 2002, HarperCollins,
— Candice Ransom
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-This spare and moving chapter book will hook readers from the first page. Ruby Sawyer, born in 1912, has lived her whole life in a Vermont lumber camp, where she idolizes her Pa, a logger. Then he is killed in an accident, and Ruby, her Ma, and her 10 siblings must move to a small house near town. In the midst of her loneliness and sorrow, the 10-year-old meets Mrs. Graham, a kindly blind woman who lets Ruby read her books. When the child begins teaching some of the loggers to read, she is on the path to discovering her life's work. While the "lumber camp library" of the book's title is not established until nearly the last page, the narrative builds effectively to that point. This story is gentle enough for beginning readers without glossing over the more difficult details of Ruby's life. The novel is long enough to get readers involved, but moves along quickly enough to hold their interest, and they will be transfixed by the strong and spirited Ruby.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Kinsey-Warnock (A Doctor Like Papa, above, etc.) highlights love of reading and the desire to learn in this short, wholesome tale of hardship and friendship, set in early 20th-century Vermont. Ruby leaves her beloved lumberjack father to ride into town to school each day then returns to "school" her ten younger siblings. But after his death, she has to drop out to help the now-struggling family make ends meet. Fortunately, not only do the lumberjacks hire Ruby's Ma to cook for them, but a group asks Ruby herself to teach them to read-and better yet, the family is befriended by Aurora Graham, a retired nurse with a large house full of books. In a quick but satisfying conclusion, the author sends Ruby on to become a teacher in later life, and after her retirement to found a town library for future generations of avid readers. Like Lucy Whipple, Ruby may take an occasional wrong turn, but she meets challenges squarely, and finds her vocation with the help of a rough community that recognizes and supports her talents. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 9-11)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Library Edition
Product dimensions:
5.37(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.51(d)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Ruby was born in 1912 in a lumber camp in the northern hills of Vermont. It was a bitter January night with drifts as high as the roof.

Pa hitched up one of the workhorses and drove six miles through the snow to fetch the doctor, but Ruby got there before the doctor did.

Pa cradled the new baby in his rough hands that cut timber all day long.

"My jewel," he said, "my little jewel," and named the baby Ruby.

As Ruby grew, she followed Pa everywhere. Pa seemed as much a part of the woods as the trees themselves. He taught her the names of the birds and the trees. She learned the tracks of bobcat and fox. Pa showed her where the wild ginger and lady slippers grew. Ma teased her about being Pa's little shadow, but Ruby didn't mind. She liked being Pa's shadow. Pa was her sun and moon and the stars in-between, and anything he was doing, why, that was what she wanted to be doing, too.

In the years to follow, ten more sisters and brothers were born — Lillian, Marvin, Irene, Mabel, Albert, June, Lewis, Margaret, and the twins, Wilson and Ben. Pa loved them all, but it was Ruby he called his little jewel to the end of his days.

All winter long, Pa and the other lumberjacks cut down trees and piled the logs beside the river. In the spring, when the ice went out and the water was high, the logs were floated down the river to sawmills far away. It was Pa's job to make sure logs didn't get caught on rocks or bends in the river. If they did, the logs would pile up into a terrible jam. Pa then had to try to untangle that jumble of logs. Sometimes it took dynamite to blow a jam apart.

Some loggers died under fallingtrees or behind teams of horses, but it was the river that was the hardest and most dangerous place to work. The men worked all day, waist deep in icy water, lifting logs off sandbars and prying logjams apart. But it was the place Pa loved best. And he shone in riding the logs down the river.

All rivermen could stand on a log and ride it down through rapids, but Pa rode logs the way most men sit a chair. He made riding logs through churning water look like the easiest thing in the world. Pa could do handstands and somersaults on the log, and he could lie down on it while it went over the falls. That log would be bucking like a horse, and Pa would lie there with his eyes closed as if he were taking a nap. Ruby never tired of watching him.

Like other rivermen, Pa wore boots with sharp metal spikes in the soles to help them ride the logs. One day, Pa showed Ruby a pair of old rotting boots hung on a tree beside the river.

"These were Jake Bowman's," Pa said. "Whenever a riverman drowns, it's custom to hang their spiked boots on a tree to mark the spot. It's our way of paying tribute."

A gray j ay squawked from a nearby tree, and Pa jumped. It wasn't like Pa to be startled.

"What's the matter, Pa?" Ruby asked.

"Most lumberjacks are a superstitious lot," Pa said. "They call those jays 'moosebirds' and believe them to be the souls of dead lumberjacks. It's said you must never harm a moosebird or terrible things will happen to you.

Ruby watched the jay flit off through the trees.

"Do you believe that, Pa?" she asked. "Do you think that jay was Jake Bowman?"

"Well," Pa said slowly, "I'm not sure I believe that, but I let 'em be. You know, those birds are pests in camp. They'll steal bacon right out of the frying pan and carry off anything that catches their fancy, especially something brightand shiny. I had one steal a button right off my coat once, but I've never hurt one. I like 'em. You won't see 'em in towns; they're a bird of lonely places, a creature of the north woods." Pa grinned.

"Kinda like me," he said.

Lumber Camp Library. Copyright © by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is the author of sixteen distinguished books for children. These range from her first novel, The Canada Geese Quilt, an ALA Notable Book, to her popular picture book The Bear That Heard Crying. All of the stories have one thing in common: They are based either on the author's own life or on true stories passed down through the seven generations of her family that have lived in northern Vermont.

When she isn't writing, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock keeps herself busy as an athlete, naturalist, artist, book lover, bagpiper, and rescuer of three horses, seven cats, and eight dogs. She and her husband live in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

James Bernardin is a versatile and prolific illustrator of many acclaimed books for children. He has illustrated Laura Numeroff's Would I Trade My Parents?, Eve Bunting's Too Many Monsters, and Candy Chand's The Twelve Prayers of Christmas. He has also created artwork for numerous book covers, including Mary Pope Osborne's Tales from the Odyssey series.

James lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington State with his wife, Lisa, and two sons, Wyeth and Bryson.

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