Worthby A. LaFaye
Nathaniel feels increasingly jealous of the boy who has taken over not only his work but the attention of his father, who
After Nathaniel's leg is crushed in an accident, his father brings home an orphan boy, John Worth, to help work the fields. Worth has come to Nebraska from New York City on the Orphan Train, which brings homeless children west to find new lives.
Nathaniel feels increasingly jealous of the boy who has taken over not only his work but the attention of his father, who has barely spoken to him since his injury. In school for the first time he is far behind even his youngest classmates, and he feels as useless there as he does at home.
Meanwhile, Worth is still grieving for his family and his old life. As the farm chores prevent him from going to school, he also resents losing his dream of an education and a good job. And for all the work he does, he knows he will never inherit the farm that he's helping to save.
But a battle between ranchers and farmers -- and a book of Greek mythology that Nathaniel reads aloud each evening -- forges a connection between the two boys, who begin to discover that maybe there is enough room on the farm, and in the family, for both of them.
A. LaFaye's dynamic portrayal of two boys longing for something they no longer have -- and finding the resources to face the future -- offers a fresh perspective on the thousands of children who moved west via the Orphan Trains in the late nineteenth century.
Crippled by a freak farming accident, 11-year-old Nathaniel is bitter, helpless, frustrated, and angry when his father brings John Worth, an Orphan Train boy, into their home to help with the chores Nate can no longer manage in A. LeFaye's novel (S & S, 2004). But the two boys, each wounded in a different yet similar way, discover they have more in common than initially apparent and slowly begin to develop a friendship based on their joint desire to save the family's farm. LaFaye's unsparing look at the grueling hardships of day-to-day farm life during the late 19th-century and the ongoing battle between farmers and ranchers for control of the land is matched by the narrator Tommy Fleming's skill at portraying the starkness of the emotions felt by each of the characters in this short, spare, and beautifully told winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction. Speaking with an authentic Nebraska accent, Fleming captures the poignancy of Nate's battle to overcome his disability, learn to read, and reinvent himself within his unhappy family. A compelling and historically accurate story beautifully rendered.—Cindy Lombardo, Tuscarawas County Public Library, New Philadelphia, OH
Read an Excerpt
Chapter Three: What a Boy Is Worth
The sound of his boots told me Pa planned to go into town. Heard the crisp clomp-clomp of his Sunday boots. I counted back on my fingers -- no Sunday hadn't come again. It was only Saturday. When he stepped into the kitchen, Ma spoke in how-dare-you whispers. I knew them well.
Back when Pa came home with his homestead papers, saying we'd be moving to Nebraska come spring, Ma'd let her anger out in short hot bursts only Pa could hear. We all slept in the same room back then, but Ma could whisper so slow and quick, I couldn't hear a word of it. But the pitch of it said she didn't take to the idea at all. And whatever had Pa going to town on a Saturday didn't please her any.
As Pa stepped outside, I heard Ma say, "He won't be sleeping in this house."
Who did she mean? The jingle of tack and the rumble of the wagon said Pa headed out for town so I wouldn't see him until noon to know just who Ma meant. Months in bed had made me half-crazy. The idea of not knowing itched in my brain until I was ready to scream.
"Pa taking on hired help?" I called out to her.
"No." The quick snip of her voice and the way she punched at the dough in the bowl I heard knocking against the table told me just how mad she really felt.
"Who's he bringing back then?"
"No one I've approved of."
"Would I approve of him?"
She fell silent for a bit, then I heard her snuffle in a breath -- she'd been crying.
I heard her step toward my room, but she didn't come in. I could see the shadow she cast across the doorway, her shoulders stooped, her head bowed. Made me feel thin. She whispered, "He's bringing home a boy."
I didn't understand. She'dalready said he wasn't bringing home a farmhand. "What boy?"
"An orphan boy."
Could've been neck deep in snow for how cold I felt right then. I'd heard tell of those orphan trains that brought in city kids to be picked out of a herd on a church stage and brought home like a new steer. The Campbells got a new son that way after their boy was taken by the measles, but I wasn't dead.
"He adopted a son?"
Ma rushed into the room, her face shiny with tears. "No. Not a son. Just a boy to help around here."
Held my breath like it'd keep me from bursting.
"Nathaniel, your father and I have only one son. We'll always only have one." She tried to brush my hair, but I swatted her away.
"I'm not Pa's son anymore. He hasn't so much as said how do."
She folded her hands in her lap. "He has his eye on you, Nate. Comes in and watches you nights."
She nodded, pointing. "From the doorway."
"When it's dark and he can't see me."
Ma shook her head. "Nathaniel, Pa just needs another set of hands around the place. This is the only way he could afford it."
Funny. A steer you'd have to pay for, but a boy you could adopt for free. Not worth much.
Worth. That was his name. John Worth. He stood in front of my bed all bit up by mosquitoes and scratching through a new suit. Pa didn't buy him that, did he? The kid wouldn't even look at me. He just stared at the floor.
Pa turned him roughlike to face the bed. "This is our son, Nathaniel." Looking over my head, instead of at me, Pa said, "Nathaniel, this is John Worth."
We mumbled our hellos, then Pa turned him around to march him out of the room. "I'll show you the lay of the land around here."
Ma stood in the door, her arms folded over her chest, her eyes dead set on the boy, just pouring out the hate like she did every time she set eyes on Verna Crawford, the woman who said she'd watch over Missy while Ma and Pa worked down at the thread factory.
Missy choked on a piece of bread. Died while that woman was doing piece work for a shirtwaist factory. And all that woman could say was, "I've raised nine children and didn't none of them choke when I put them down with a little bread to chew."
Ma near about tore that woman's face off before Pa dragged her out the door. The whole of it froze me to the spot, felt like a ghost standing there staring at that woman bleeding on the floor, the drawer she'd had Missy sleeping in dropped sideways behind her, empty except for the old pocket of Ma's apron Missy kept with her.
Mr. Crawford shooed me out the door and closed it behind me. Don't know how long I stood in that hallway before Pa came to collect me.
This time Pa had turned me into a ghost, sitting there staring at the spot on the floor where John Worth had stood.
But I wasn't going to let that no account city boy bury me alive. I'd show Pa just what I could do. Since Doc Kelly had finally cut me loose from that contraption, I could start moving around a bit, building up the strength in my leg.
The thing looked evil wrong. My left thigh had shriveled up to be as thin as my right shin. My left shin looked no bigger than the bones inside it. Had a big purple scar where the bone broke through the skin. And the whole leg burned like wildfire when I so much as curled up a toe. And shake. That thing shook like a leaf in the wind. Not that the rest of me did much better. I'd been moving my arms, my right leg, and turning my body best as I could to keep up the muscles, but you can't do much with your left leg trussed up.
Had the strength of a butterfly. Near about passed out just swinging my legs over the edge of the bed. "Take her easy there, son." Doc Kelly ran to sit next to me. "You rush this and you're liable to just break the leg again."
"Heaven forbid," Ma gasped, covering her mouth.
"We won't let that happen, Mary Eve."
Wouldn't much happen if I didn't get stronger, but I couldn't do a bit that day except fall back into the bed and let sleep take me off. I dreamed of birds. Pigeons all clustered up on a ledge clucking away like only pigeons can, but the noise continued even after I opened my eyes in the darkness of night. Took me a bit to figure out I heard crying, someone crying on the other side of my bedroom wall. But the only thing back there was the lean-to where we kept the wood for the fireplace. Then I remembered Ma's words, "He won't be sleeping in this house."
She had that boy sleeping in the lean-to like a dog. Well, as far as I was concerned, that's where he belonged.
Copyright © 2004 by A. LaFaye
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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WORTH This historical fiction book by A. LaFaye , is a waste of six dollars. The story was about always fighting between the orphan boy John Worth, and himself Nate. Right when they were almost about to come friends, they would fight again. I think this book is a good for ages 5 to 7 because it was so short and easy. The book did not suck me in and made me very distracted. I felt like I wanted to eat and watch T.V while reading it. This book took place in the 1800s and was published by Aladdin Paperbacks. The book in a way, is a lot like a nonfiction biography. Nate is jealous to always see his dad with John Worth laughing and all. And Ma despises John. So for you who like books about historical fiction, be my guest and buy it. But if you don't, don't waste your money because it will not suck you in.
This book is really great I'm thirteen and I really enjoyed this book.I give it two thumbs up.
I recomend this book to young readers out there. Its a book that teaches you life lessons and is realatible. Its a great book for the enitre family to read because it shows readers that people can learn to love again, even after tragidies. I recomend this book strongly.
A splash of adventure, emotion and a bit of history. Wonderful read!
This book is about a boy who becomes crippled after a storm. The boy's father borrows a orphan to work. At first the crippled boy is a total enemy with the orphan but at the end they become more like...Read the book to find out!!
Oh my gosh! This book is the best I have read in mabey the last 2 months! I loved it. I love horses, and i loved this book about the horse! If you love horses you will love, Worth!
Worth, by the talented young author, A. LaFaye, is the story of a poor, hard working ranch family, trying to make it down on the farm. This is one of those rare books, targeted for kids or young adults, but certainly interesting enough to entertain the old folks as well. Each character in the book seems real, has faults, has problems to deal with, and develops. Important social themes are richly mined in Worth, a book aptly titled. As a writer myself (Allergy-free Gardening, etc.) and as a former teacher, I admire this book on several levels. First, it is well told and engaging. Second, it is one that should have a very broad appeal, easily crossing various ethnic, economic and age-related barriers. Lastly, the book makes some excellent, important points, and does so in a heart-felt way, not preachy, not pushy, not in the least bit smacking of any artificiality. Worth would make a terrific movie and I hope some day it does just that. It has a lot going for it and it is easy to see why Worth has won so many literary prizes already. As a parent and a teacher, I highly recommend this fine book. Kids from nine to ninety will enjoy it and remember it.