Gr 4-7A well-written offering for readers seeking a fairly detailed description of the United Society of Believers, a group whose numbers decrease year by year. Thorne-Thomsen first tells about two Shaker children. After his father died in 1852, Nicholas Briggs, his mother, and two siblings joined the group in Canterbury, NH. Anita Potter's father left her with the Hancock, MA, community in 1925 when she was nine. Although they left their respective communities, Nicholas after 40 years and Anita after 4, they "...took a genuine love for the Shakers with them." Most of the black-and-white photographs are well reproduced, but some are grainy and a few are out of focus. The second half of the volume includes recipes, crafts, and games. The recipes are clearly written, but intended for experienced cooks. The activities, too, are more valuable for the details of the lifestyle that they provide than for general use. A matter-of-fact, quiet look at what self-sufficient, communal living was like among the Shakers.Carole B. Kirkpatrick, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA
Most young readers know so little about this nearly moribund Utopian community that any new book on the subject should be welcome—but not this one. The first half tells the true stories of two children who lived in Shaker communities. Of curiosity to contemporary readers is that the children don't seem very upset at being separated from their families. They adapt to Shaker ways, in an account that is little more than a superficial overview of a complex and often demanding way of life. Many terms are introduced and never really explained (e.g., needle emeries), neither in context nor in the brief glossary. The second half of the book—devoted to activities—is really problematic. Even experienced adult cooks are leery of making jam/jelly (the author uses the terms interchangeably), an activity that is downright dangerous for children. Many of the recipes are beyond the abilities of preteens, and the other activities can be quite ambitious, e.g., planting a ten-foot-square garden, often without clear instructions. Included is a bibliography of adult books; it fails to include the half-dozen titles—in print and still being read—available for young readers, any of which provide far more solid information than this title does.