Mark Twain, who spent part of his life in a rural setting, once jokingly described a farm as "a creek for swimming, a barn for sleeping, outbuildings for exploration, and a hayloft for relaxing." In reality, farm work has historically been marked by exhausting and often backbreaking labor. Life on the farm is the topic of this illustrated book written by Raymond Bial. Farms have been the backbone of American society for much of its history. The history of farm life in America can be traced back to the earliest settlements of the Europeans. Such pioneering spirits hacked a farm out of the forestlands that once spread from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and beyond. With settlement came the work of barn raising, building out buildings, and fencing the land. These tasks required enormous effort and sometimes broke people who could not bear it. In this well-crafted book readers will come to know the nature of American farming of the past century. In our own days, when the vast majority of people live in urban areas, the life of a 19th century farmer is alien. Raymond Bial does a nice job of reintroducing readers to that historic way of life. Part of the "Building America" series. 2002, Benchmark Books, $24.21. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Bial displays his trademark clear, enthusiastic narrative coupled with outstanding photos and archival prints. Here, illustrations by Eric Sloane are an additional bonus. The author shows great respect for his subjects and repeatedly emphasizes and explains the backbreaking labor and ingenuity necessary for survival in the New World and on the frontier. In pursuing the dream of building a life in a new country, the settlers adapted their old ways, borrowed from others, and applied incredible creativity to achieve their goal. Their efforts and the lasting results are vividly described. The technology explained is practical and often complicated but the clear explanations are accompanied by enlightening diagrams or photos. All illustrative material is credited and Bial's photos are reminiscent of paintings by Edward Hopper in their use of light and shadow. These titles are akin to Leonard Everett Fisher's "Colonial Craftsmen" series (Benchmark) and the classic books by Edwin Tunis such as Frontier Living (HarperCollins, 1976). The quotes in each volume are not footnoted but they generally provide color rather than essential information. The titles provide narrative and visual delights and will be valuable for school use and for browsing.-Marlene Gawron, Orange County Library, Orlando, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.