“He packs wool sheared in April, honey in combs, linen, leather tanned from deerhide, and vinegar in a barrel hooped by hand at the forge’s fire.” American poet Donald Hall, Ox-Cart Man
There are a handful of books that have a permanent presence in my life. Most are seasonal in nature, somehow capturing the fleeting essence of time. This is in spite of the fact most are also written for young children, who have all the time there ever has been or ever will be.
Two of these books are the embodiment of fall: Little House in the Big Woods (written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrated by Garth Williams) and Ox-Cart Man (written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney).
Big Woods, the first in Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, is my favorite of her works. Written from the spectator view of early childhood, the book follows the seasons, with detailed focus on the intricacies and uncertainties of preserving and storing up food for a long winter in the Wisconsin woods. There is also the delight of family and the simple joy of a holiday gathering.
The book is a warm blanket on a cold night.
And, Ox-Cart Man, is a hot cup of tea to go with it.
Actually a poem and clearly meant to be read aloud, the book begins in October and follows an 1800s family through a year of farm life. They fill the cart with a year’s worth of their goods, which the father then takes to a far-flung city market. He returns with a knife, a kettle, a sharp needle, some peppermints and the zeal to begin the cycle of growing and making and doing all over again.
Every time I read it, I want to sit around a fire with my family and whittle. Maybe this will be the year that I actually do.
The illustrations in both books are also a delight. Ox-Cart Man won the 1980 Caldecott Medal, the highest award for picture books. Williams, who illustrated both the Little House series and Charlotte’s Web, is simply stellar.
So, if the nights are getting cold in your neck of the woods …
And, what about you, blog friends? Are there any books that speak fireside joy and fuzzy sweaters to your hearts?