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Across the Puddingstone Dam (Little House Series: The Charlotte Years)

Across the Puddingstone Dam (Little House Series: The Charlotte Years)

by Melissa Wiley, Dan Andreasen (Illustrator)

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Boston's Little House Girl

Meet Charlotte Tucker, the little girl who would grow up to be Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother.

Eleven-year-old Charlotte can't imagine living anywhere but Tide Mill Lane. She is delighted when a school for young ladies opens nearby. The prospect of a new baby brother and the reappearance of a long-lost


Boston's Little House Girl

Meet Charlotte Tucker, the little girl who would grow up to be Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother.

Eleven-year-old Charlotte can't imagine living anywhere but Tide Mill Lane. She is delighted when a school for young ladies opens nearby. The prospect of a new baby brother and the reappearance of a long-lost relative combine to complete Charlotte's world. But a new dam connecting Roxbury and Boston turns Tide Mill Lane into a noisy, messy construction site, and Charlotte's parents worry about what this will mean for their family.

Across the Puddingstone Dam is the fourth book in The Charlotte Years, an ongoing series about another spirited girl from America's most beloved pioneer family.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Wiley successfully captures the hubbub and daily rhythm of early 19th century life in this fourth title of the "Charlotte Years" series, the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother. Charlotte, age eleven, and her older sister are allowed to attend a school for young ladies in Boston and at their home in Roxbury a new baby brother delights everyone. But there is trouble in the community. In an unprecedented act of vandalism the church bible is slashed. And the new dam under construction between Roxbury and Boston turns Back Bay into a pool of sewage and rotting fish. Charlotte is an appealing character, curious about the mysterious behavior of grownups around her. Strong, charismatic Mama responds to Charlotte's perceptive questions and confides the losses in her own life and the secret grief of the person who destroyed the bible. Charlotte matures as she learns of the dark pain that may lead to erratic acts. A tragedy in the family immobilizes Charlotte for a time, but she learns that putting a wall around pain keeps out the love as well. A joyful reunion with a long-lost relative and the move to a new home in Boston renew the family's optimism. As in Wilder's "Little House" books, the vitality of the pioneer spirit throbs through this industrious, close-knit family striving to eat what they are served in life and shake off despair and misfortune. Challenging vocabulary and vivid descriptions add to the appeal of this slice of Boston history. 2004, HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12.
—Ann Philips

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Little House Prequel Series , #4
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Across the Puddingstone Dam

The Mill Dam

Charlotte turned eleven in the spring of 1820. For her birthday, Mama and Papa gave her the new book by Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist who was spoken of so highly in all the papers. Last winter Mama had read his novel Waverley to the family, holding them all entranced -- from Lewis, who was nearly a man now, right on down to Mary, who would be seven in June. Charlotte especially had been captivated by Mr. Scott's tale of life in faraway Scotland, where Mama and Papa had grown up. She had been sorry to see the book end. Now there was the new one, satisfyingly heavy in her hand, beckoning with adventure. Ivanhoe. It was a name full of mystery and promise. Charlotte was tempted to run off and read it all alone, in some quiet sun-dappled nook beneath the blossoming apple trees. She knew, though, that the rest of the family was as eager to hear the story as she was. Tom was eyeing the book with the same expression he wore whenever Mama placed a platter of roast goose on the table. So Charlotte handed it back to Mama and asked if she would read it to the family after she finished Robinson Crusoe, which they were halfway through.

Besides, quiet nooks for reading were in short supply this spring. There was scarcely a corner within a mile of Charlotte's house that was free from the constant bang and bellow of construction. Men were building a dam across the Roxbury Flats. Two dams, really. The main one, the Mill Dam, was to stretch from the end of Beacon Street in Boston westward across the Charles River to Brookline. A smaller dam, the Cross Dam, would extend from the end of Tide Mill Lane and cut across the flats to intersect the Mill Dam at its halfway point. For over a year the wagons had been rumbling past the Tucker house toward the construction site. The tidal marsh that had once rung with the cries of heron and gull now lay chastened under the thunder of hammers and the shouts of men.

Tide Mill Lane was not a lane anymore. It was a road: a stern road, all business, impatient with amblers and children. Mary had nearly been run down by a team of horses last week, and the driver had not stopped to apologize but had actually cursed at her as she darted in terror out of his way. Papa had walked out to the Cross Dam to speak with the foreman. The foreman had been sorry; he had little girls of his own at home. But he could not, he shrugged, be responsible for the behavior of every teamster who hauled a load of stone from the quarry.

"I'd keep my little ones off the road, if I were you, Tucker," he had cautioned. "Your house is in a devil of a spot for accidents, ain't it? I don't know how you can stand it."

Mama's eyes had blazed when Papa re-counted the story at supper that evening. "How we can stand it?" she said in disgust. "What choice have we? Weren't consulted, were we, when the fools in Boston were fighting each other for a share in these blasted dams?"

"Easy, me love," said Papa lightly, in the same gentle tone he used to calm a rearing horse. "There was naught we could do aboot it then, and there's little noow."

Mama's withering glare showed exactly what she thought of the horse-calming voice.

"Dinna you gentle me, Lew Tucker," she said. "I've a right to be angry, and you ken it well." She glared across the length of the table at him, while the children looked on in silence. Papa held her gaze, his face solemn, until suddenly Mama laughed and shook her head.

"What am I sayin'? You're angrier than I am," she said. She passed a hand over her eyes. "Mary," she said, the edge gone from her voice, "stay off the road from now on, lass. All o' you. Be careful. Times have changed on Tide Mill Lane. I fear 'twill get worse before it gets better."

It was not like Mama to be pessimistic. Charlotte stared at her, troubled, but the merry light came back to Mama's eyes and she teased Tom about coming to the table with soot on his nose. Mama was unhappy about the Mill Dam, but she was not going to let it spoil a nice supper.

Nor would Mama let the dam ruin a beautiful spring. The week after Charlotte's birthday Mama sorted through the packets of seeds she had saved from last year's crop of pumpkins, squash, corn, and beans. She set Charlotte and Lydia to work planting the vegetable garden while she and Mary sowed fennel, basil, thyme, and dill in the herb garden beside the house. The two gardens were separated by a low stone wall that Papa had made long ago. Mama's herbs were famous in Roxbury -- or rather, Mama was famous for her skill at brewing them into healing teas and ointments. People came from all over town to buy her remedies for gout, stomachache, and cough.

Charlotte, laboring over a long row of onion sets, wished Mama could brew a remedy for aching muscles -- at least one that she would allow Charlotte to take. Mama's pain-relieving willow-bark potion was much in demand, but she never gave it to children unless they were feverish. Charlotte didn't even ask. But she and Lydia entertained themselves by thinking up tonics they'd like to invent to make planting time easier. Charlotte wanted an infusion that would make her so strong, she could lift the hoe as if it were a feather. Lydia wanted one to keep the blackflies away.

"And the mosquitoes, too, while I'm at it," she added. "They'll be along soon enough, I expect."


Excerpted from Across the Puddingstone Dam by Wiley, Melissa Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Melissa Wiley, the author of the Charlotte Years and the Martha Years series, has done extensive research on early-nineteenth-century New England life. She lives in Virginia with her husband, Scott, and her daughters, Kate, Erin, and Eileen.

Dan Andreasen has illustrated many well-loved books for children, including River Boy: The Story of Mark Twain and Pioneer Girl: The Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, both by William Anderson, as well as many titles in the Little House series. He lives with his family in Medina, Ohio.

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