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by Avi & illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-027664-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

In his third entry in the I Can Read Chapter Book series, master storyteller Avi (Abigail Takes the WheeI, 1999, etc.) offers another transitional chapter book with a historical setting, this time the isolated prairie of Colorado in pioneer days. Nine-year-old Noah works alongside his parents and loves his outdoor-oriented life on the family’s homestead. He sees no reason for schooling, but his parents have other ideas. They invite Aunt Dora, who uses a wheelchair, to come from Maine for a long visit with the purpose of providing some “book learning” for her nephew. Noah digs in his heels and resists his aunt’s lessons, but being a determined and skilled teacher, she finds a way to connect with Noah by teaching him about the stars and native plants. Over the summer Noah learns to read and write and by fall is able to read aloud to his proud parents, who have limited reading skills. When Dora returns to her home in the East, she leaves a letter for Noah (presented in letter format), and on the book’s last page, Noah writes his own touching letter to his aunt, which the reader senses will be the start of a fruitful correspondence. Farnsworth’s glowing paintings capture the details of Noah’s pioneer life, showing the dim, cramped interior of their sod dugout and the endless expanse of the prairie. This quiet, thoughtful story will have a subtle appeal to children who may have resisted “book learning” themselves, and the matter-of-fact inclusion of a still-active young teacher in a wheelchair provides further depth to the theme of reading as a “frigate like a book to take us lands away.” (Fiction. 7-9)