When her family moved to the Ohio wilderness, Betsy Ward came ready to make warm new clothes for her children. She had a spinning wheel, a loom, and a secret stash of coins to buy sheep. But where would she find the sheep? This true-to-life story about the hardships, strength, and determination of one family will make readers feel as warm as wool.
- Publisher's Weekly
In this modest tale set in 1803 Ohio, a pioneer mother has a plan to keep her children warm: it starts with sheep purchased with coins she'd been saving from her former days in Connecticut. Ages 5-10. (Dec.)
- Jan Lieberman
A grand story of a strong female character. Betsy Ward's determination to keep her 3 children and her husband in warm clothes during their first winter in Connecticut, 1803, is a lesson in determination and sheer will. Sanders is a grand storyteller "...the cold played music on the children's ribs, the wind whistled about their knees." Cogancherry's golden-hued paintings are rich portraits of this frontier family. Betsy Ward buys sheep, raises them, loses them to mishaps of the frontier but never gives up.
- Judy Katsh
As much a tribute to maternal love as it is a historical fiction suitable for very young readers, this book succeeds as both. The year is 1803. A mother, father, and three young children spend their first winter in their newly built wilderness cabin. Their thin clothes, patched as they are with loving kindness, fail to keep out the wind, snow, and bitter cold. Mother has predicted this hardship, and has a recovery planned as well. With determination, dedicated effort, and a little luck she is successful in acquiring the means to keep her children warm for this season, and many seasons to come. It's a beautiful book, beautifully written and lusciously illustrated in the browns and golds that evoke both frontier realities and saintly devotion. What a bonus that it also introduces young readers to a different time, place, and way of life. 1998 (orig.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-- The reality of the American pioneer experience is embodied in this simple, historically based account of Betsy Ward, who with her husband and three young children emigrated from Connecticut to the Ohio woodlands in 1803. An entry from a 19th-century record book is the impetus for the story, and Sanders fleshes out the characters and plot to create a memorable picture of a family's life in an isolated, draughty cabin with only ragged clothing to keep them from freezing. After shivering all winter long, Ward is able to buy eight sheep from a passing drover. Natural hazards decimate her little flock, but with each loss she shears the corpse, and spins and weaves the wool. Lambs are born, the flock increases, and the children are warm and comfortable at last. The patience and hard labor required of a farm family, the supreme importance of their livestock, the discomforts and disappointments they must endure, and the quiet satisfaction they achieve are clearly depicted in text and illustration. The handsome, expressive pictures are done in warm-toned watercolors and pencil and are rich in authentic detail. An unusual unity in format is achieved by a thin wash of color over the text page as well. Although the story is at times bleak, the golden tones of the illustrations impart a feeling of optimism for the future. The prose is vivid, suspenseful, precise, and well cadenced. --Patricia Pearl Dole, formerly at First Presbyterian School, Martinsville, VA
Here as in his "Aurora Means Dawn" , Sanders expands on a true story about a pioneer family. This time, he tells of Betsy and Josiah Ward and their three children, who travel westward from Connecticut to Ohio during the winter. The Wards can't escape the cold, and Betsy is determined to own sheep so she can harvest the wool to make warm clothing for her children. When a man passes by the cabin with a flock of sheep, Betsy pulls out a sockful of coins to purchase eight of them. In the spirit of survival, she raises the sheep, protects them from wolves, and gathers every precious ounce of wool. All summer and fall she works toward her mission, and the following winter her children are insulated against the cold by her hard work and handiwork. Cogancherry's watercolors, done in earth tones that reflect natural colors and lighting, convey a sure sense of pioneer life. This is a warm book about the struggle to stay warm, and a strong heroine is captured in both story and pictures. An author's note is appended.