Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Isaacs (Swamp Angel) rustles up another nourishing batch of tales about American settlers, this time for middle-graders. Set over different years in the early 1880s, each of three stories focuses on one of the three Barrett children and in some way involves their treehouse. The first story alluringly establishes the rural setting and sympathetically introduces the children by means of their rich, imaginative play. While playing Civil War one day, Natty fearfully insists to his siblings that there is a dragon in their treehouse. Tom investigates, and inadvertently dumps water on hired hand Zeke, the "dragon" who has sneaked in for a smoke. This good-natured tale is followed by two even more vibrant stories. In one, Emily earns the right to ride horses at full gallop like a boy; in the other, Natty thinks he can achieve greatness la George Washington if he, too, chops down a special tree. Bloom's (One Yellow Daffodil) pencil illustrations mix a sweet nostalgia with mild folkloric humor. They add just enough historical ambience to the timeless themes of this collection. Ages 8-11. (July)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
A special treehouse serves as the link between these three tales, each featuring the amusing adventures of three farm siblings in rural Pennsylvania in the 1800's. For Tom and Emily, the treehouse is a refuge and inspiration for imaginative adventures and daydreams, while for the youngest child, Natty, it serves as the silent witness of his misguided attempt to find and follow his own path in life. Large black and white drawings bring out the gentle humor of the stories.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5Three siblings living on a farm in Whilton County, PA, in the 1880s each tell a story with their treehouse as the focal point. The eldest, Tom, is 10 when he builds the treehouse that they use for spying games. Five-year-old Natty swears that the structure is the home of a fire-breathing dragon, until Tom proves that the monster is really a neighbor smoking a pipe. Two years later in 1883, Emily is 10 when her yearning to ride a fast horse is finally realized and she makes an exciting journey to stop a thief. Natty, the youngest, is eight when his fascination with and reenactment of George Washington's cherry-tree story almost splinters his dreams. These charming stories combine the homespun details found in Laura Ingalls Wilder's work, the storytelling of Bill Brittain, and the child's-eye view of Ann Cameron's "Julian" tales. The depiction of time and place, family ties, and daily events are dovetailed with a realistic style and likable children to create satisfying reading. The narratives will be fun read-alouds with the black-and-white drawings subtly adding flavor.Julie Cummins, New York Public Library
An affecting and affectionate trio of stories about three siblings growing up on a Pennsylvania farm in the 1880s.
Tom, Natty, and Emily play at being Civil War generals, with their treehouse as a fort, but Natty fears the stump it sits on, saying that a dragon lives there. How Tom unmasks the dragon, and learns a bit about Zeke, the hired hand, as well as about the art of storytelling, are at the heart of this first chapter. In the second, Emily longs to ride in the competition at the county fair, but her mother insists that ladies don't ride at full gallop. Emily gets to ride a horse fast and hard and capture a thief at the same time. In the third tale, Natty takes the story of George Washington and the cherry tree as a metaphor for making his own choices in a dilemma involving parental expectationsand lambs. Some of the casual conversation is spot on, e.g., when Natty realizes with distaste that his sister is a girl: " `Girl!' he said, as if he had been told his sister was a snail." The black-and-white illustrations are warm and with just enough exaggeration to match the tale-telling.