Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Calico Bush

Finished Calico Bush by Rachel Field. It won the Newbery Honor Medal in 1932. It's the story of Margaurite, a girl who travels from France with her grandmother and uncle to start a new life in the American colonies. Unfortunately her uncle dies on the ship as they travel to the colonies and her grandmother dies soon after their arrival. Margaurite is alone in a strange new world. She is placed with a family as a bound-out girl. The family will house, feed and clothe her until she is 19. During that time she must work for them to help with household duties and childcare. The family she is bound-out to decides to move from Marblehead, MA to the wild and largely unpopulated coast of Maine. When they arrive they find that their house has been burned and that Indians in the area remain hostile towards settlers.

During her time with her host family Margaurite is treated fairly by the adults and younger children, although the mother, Dolly, is critical of her as a foreigner and a Catholic. The oldest son teases her often and criticizes the French for siding with the Indians against settlers. Margaurite bears many slights of this kind. She engages in numerous feats of bravery to protect the children and animals of her new family. It is not until the end of the story that she is fully appreciated for these acts.

This is the third book that I have read from this period which describes a female child being severely burned and then dying. What was it that prompted writers to include this in stories of the time?

Calico Bush is another name for Mountain Laurel. Field won the Newbery Medal in 1930 for Hitty: Her First Hundred Years.

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