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What You Know First

Overview

'A child comes to terms with the fact that she and her family are leaving the prairie. . . . As she talks herself into acceptance, her Mama helps her let go, commenting that the baby will need someone to tell him where he came from. So the girl gathers mementoes—a bag of earth and a piece of cottonwood tree. . . .A novel hides in these few pages. As with Sarah, Plain and Tall, the subext vibrates. So much is told in each perfectly chosen phrase. The story is deep and specific, but the pain and denial of a child leaving a known and loved place is

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Overview

'A child comes to terms with the fact that she and her family are leaving the prairie. . . . As she talks herself into acceptance, her Mama helps her let go, commenting that the baby will need someone to tell him where he came from. So the girl gathers mementoes—a bag of earth and a piece of cottonwood tree. . . .A novel hides in these few pages. As with Sarah, Plain and Tall, the subext vibrates. So much is told in each perfectly chosen phrase. The story is deep and specific, but the pain and denial of a child leaving a known and loved place is all too universal. Moser's finely-wrought engravings, enhanced by moody tints, record the departure.'—SLJ.

1995 "Pick of the Lists" (ABA)

As a family prepares to move away from their farm, the daughter reflects on all the things she loves there so that when her baby brother is older she can tell him what it was like.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Chernak
Moving is so hard, and the child mourns not only (though mostly) for herself but also for the baby, who won't ever know the joys of the prairie after the family sells the farm and relocates. "What you know first stays with you," Papa says. So she strains her brain to record and remember and transmit everything, from the softness of the cows' ears to the beloved cottonwood tree to her uncle's cowboy songs. Touching and nostalgic, in free verse, with starkly sorrowful etchings in pale tones of the revolving seasons.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
What You Know First is about losing a farm and how important it is to remember what you know. In this picture book, MacLachlan stresses the importance of where we came from, where we're going, and a reverence for place.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3A child comes to terms with the fact that she and her family are leaving the prairie. She recalls the people and places she will missthe blacksmith, the ocean of grass, the drifting snow in winter. As she talks herself into acceptance, her Mama helps her let go, commenting that the baby will need someone to tell him where he came from. So the girl gathers mementosa bag of earth and a piece of cottonwood tree. There's no happy ending, no real anticipation of the new placejust a sense that the strength of family will carry them through. A novel hides in these few pages. As with Sarah, Plain and Tall HarperCollins, 1985, the subtext vibrates. So much is told in each perfectly chosen phrase. The story is deep and specific, but the pain and denial of a child leaving a known and loved place is all too universal. Moser's finely wrought engravings, enhanced by moody tints, record the departure. The child is caught defiantly off center at first and later in the midst of the packing up. The people and places to be missed are given a solid reality. There is nothing sentimental in either text or illustration. These are strong people dealing with necessity. While this may not be the sort of light, charming book that has immediate group appeal, someone will find it. And for that someone, it will be just right.Sally Margolis, formerly at Deerfield Public Library, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060244149
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Series: Joanna Cotler Bks.
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 years
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include Arthur, For the Very First Time; The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt; Skylark; Caleb's Story; More Perfect Than the Moon; Grandfather's Dance; Word After Word After Word; and Kindred Souls. She is also the author of many much-loved picture books, including Three Names; All the Places to Love; What You Know First; Painting the Wind; Bittle; Who Loves Me?; Once I Ate a Pie; I Didn't Do It; Before You Came; and Cat Talk—several of which she cowrote with her daughter, Emily. She lives with her husband and two border terriers in Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

Barry Moser is the prizewinning illustrator and designer of more than three hundred books for children and adults. He is widely celebrated for his dramatic wood engravings for the only twentieth-century edition of the entire King James Bible illustrated by a single artist. He lives in western Massachusetts.

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