Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Barn

I just finished Award winner Avi's The Barn. it was a quick, enjoyable read about three siblings growing up in the Oregon Territory in 1855. Their mother died years ago and when their father suffers a stroke, the youngest boy, Ben, must return home from boarding school. With his older brother Harrison and older sister Nettie, they must work the fields and care for the father who can't feed himself or sit up.

Ben takes on the full time responsibility of caring for the father, who can't talk. Ben soon decides that the way to get the father to recover is to build the barn the father spoke of. Against obstacles including common sense, the kids decide to build the barn the father wanted.

In many ways the plot offers little new, but the ending is real and non-Disney-ish. The book reads fast and I got caught up in the language, but when you think about it few 10 year olds are as wise as Ben -- actually, none I've met are. It was hard to believe a boy would make all the observations he made, even if he was bright. I taught the highly gifted class which required an IQ of over 140 and few if any of those fourth and fifth graders had Ben's level of maturity. I think it's a good book for 4th and 5th graders, but doesn't stand up to much analysis.

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