A child's great-grandfather reminisces about the times he and his dog Three Names went to school on prairie roads in a wagon pulled by horses.
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Patricia MacLachlan was born on the prairie, and to this day carries a small bag of prairie dirt with her wherever she goes to remind her of what she knew first. She is the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; it's sequel, Skylark; Three Names, illustrated by Alex Pertzoff; and All The Places To Love, illustrated by Mike Wimmer. She lives in western Massachusetts.
In Her Own Words...
"One thing I've learned with age and parenting is that life comes in circles. Recently, I was having a bad time writing. I felt disconnected. I had moved to a new home and didn't feel grounded. The house, the land was unfamiliar to me. There was no garden yet. Why had I sold my old comfortable 1793 home? The one with the snakes in the basement, mice everywhere, no closets. I would miss the cold winter air that came in through the electrical sockets.
"I had to go this day to talk to a fourth-grade class, and I banged around the house, complaining. Hard to believe, since I am so mild mannered and pleasant, isn't it? What did I have to say to them? I thought what I always think when I enter a room of children. What do I know?
"I plunged down the hillside and into town, where a group of fourth-grade children waited for me in the library, freshly scrubbed, expectant. Should I be surprised that what usually happens did so? We began to talk about place, our living landscapes. And I showed them my little bag of prairie dirt from where I was born. Quite simply, we never got off the subject of place. Should I have been so surprised that these young children were so concerned with place, or with the lack of it, their displacement? Five children were foster children, disconnected from their homes. One little boy's house had burned down, everything gone. "Photographs, too," he said sadly. Another told me that he was moving the next day to place he'd never been. I turned and saw the librarian, tears coming down her face.
"'You know,' I said. "Maybe I should take this bag of prairie dirt and toss it into my new yard. I'll never live on the prairie again. I live here now. The two places could mix together that way!" "No!" cried a boy from the back. "Maybe the prairie dirt will blow away!" And then a little girl raised her hand. "I think you should put that prairie dirt in a glass bowl in your window so that when you write you can see it all the time. So you can always see what you knew first."
"When I left the library, I went home to write. What You Know First owes much to the children of the Jackson Street School: the ones who love place and will never leave it, the ones who lost everything and have to begin again. I hope for them life comes in circles, too."From School Library Journal:
Kindergarten-Grade 4-- Beneath an ever-changing expanse of prairie sky, MacLachlan's poetic, aptly chosen words bring the sights, sounds, and smells of her story alive in this intimate reminiscence by a child's great-grandfather about one school year and his dog. The narrative is told in the child's voice, sometimes as third person, sometimes as a dialogue between him and the elderly man. Three Names, a dog with a decided personality, looked forward to going to school, dancing and prancing around the wagon, barking at clouds that covered the sun, and frowning at a boy he considered "sly." MacLachlan transforms each event into a special one with precise imagery. Moods and action are beautifully painted by Pertzoff in soft watercolor illustrations, an ever-present canopy for the slightly impressionistic but still clearly etched people and things underneath it. Although this text is longer than most picture books and the words are strong enough to tell the tale on their own, the illustrations nonetheless are important, enhancing the telling with the beautiful colors that paint the prairie, hills, and sky. Several lives and several levels are at work in this quiet evocation that is a gift for all generations to enjoy alone or share with one another.
- Jane Marino, White Plains Library, NY
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, 1991. Library Binding. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110060240369
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, 1991. Library Binding. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0060240369