Timmy O'Dowd and the Big Ditch: A Story of the Glory Days on the Old Erie Canal

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9780152006068: Timmy O'Dowd and the Big Ditch: A Story of the Glory Days on the Old Erie Canal
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In the late 1800s, young Timmy O'Dowd and his "city boy" cousin must forget their differences and pool their energies when the Erie Canal is damaged by storms.

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From School Library Journal:

Grade 4-7 This is a well-intentioned story, but not one that is likely to hold young readers' interest. Timmy O'Dowd lives with his family near the banks of the Erie Canal. His father, like his grandfather before him, works on the Canal, and Timmy's ambition is to become a canal boat captain. Timmy's dandified but talented cousin Dennis from New York City comes to visit and to get a taste of country life. The boys become immediate rivals and remain so until almost the last chapter. When heavy rains cause a break in the canal wall, Dennis devises a plan that will prevent a total disaster for neighboring farmers. Plot development is minimal, and characters remain shallow stereotypes. Timmy and Dennis represent the typical country-boy versus city-boy match up, while adults play out their assigned roles of mother-housewife, hardworking father, and wise but sympathetic grandfather. The boys ask leading questions about the canal, and the adults reply with answers that begin to sound like quotations from an encyclopedia. Interactions between characters are entirely predictable. The book is obviously well-researched and historically accurate, with a compendium of exemplary supplementary materials. However, these do not make up for the thin story line, didactic tone, and superficially developed characters. This book will have an audience only where there is curricular demand for material on the Erie Canal or an already existing interest in it. Bruce Ann Shook, Mendenhall Middle Sch ., Greensboro, N.C.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

When cousin Dennis comes from the city to visit with Timmy's family on the Erie Canal, the boys are instantly at odds. In 1840s vernacular, Dennis is a "dandy" in Timmy's eyes, and he resents the attention the city boy gets for his artistic skills. Timmy wants to be a captain on the canal, and plans to begin an apprenticeship the next summer. But as the boys become friends, Timmy learns that there are other jobs with less pomp and ceremony but more substance that appeal to him as well. The story accomplishes more than the simple plot indicates: Hilts serves up an exciting slice of the American past without the sentimental mist of nostalgia, and shows how the communities that cropped up on either side of the canal functioned to keep the passageway running smoothly. A glossary, a foreword and historical notes (with bibliography) help readers frame the time period, and give them clues about where to look next for further stories about the Erie "canawlers." Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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