BLACK RIVER: A Wisconsin Story by Vera Andrus

BLACK RIVER: A Wisconsin Story

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Forgive the fusty title and spend the year with a likable little girl on a Wisconsin farm at the turn of the century where the forecast is sunshine with occasional showers. Papa produces the best butter in the state (he has an engraved watch to prove it) and Jennie's happiness--playing in the river, caring for the animals, painting and reading--is marred only by an occasional fall from grace. When she executes the Queen (by decapitating a doll from Grandma) and conducts a mock funeral, Papa evidences his displeasure by stern silence; she finds her eventual punishment (which fits the crime) easier to bear than his disapproval. The family's security is threatened, externally, by a jealous competitor, and when the house and creamery burn down it is assumed (but never proven--a good touch) that he is responsible. In the aftermath, Papa's despair--he weeps, be becomes still--frightens Jennie more than threats or fire. ""He has forgotten the black rocks,"" she thinks, recalling papa's parable of the river that runs clear despite the black rocks beneath the water. But the kindness and good-will of neighbors reaches him, and the family prepares to make a new start. The story is uneven in style and awkward in structure, but Jennie and her dad carry it along.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1967
Publisher: Little, Brown