Throwback Thursday: Ox-cart Man

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Source: Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Image retrieved from Amazon.

Source: Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Image retrieved from Amazon.

In the beginning of the book the ox-cart man packs up the cart with all his family  made during the year: wool sheared from the sheep, shawl and mittens made from the wool by his wife and daughter, linen fabricated from flax, candles formed from wax, shingles cut from the wood by himself, broom handles carved by his son. Ox-cart man packs all into his cart and treks to the town to market. He there sells all the wares and his ox and cart. With the coins he buys a gift for each member of his family, and then he walks back home. The family  sedulously work as the seasons pass. Ox-cart man builds another cart, and a calf is born. October here, time is ready for another trip to market.

Donald Hall based the book on a poem he had written, expanding the poem into a text fitting for children. I appreciate the simplicity and concreteness of his word choice. The down-to-earthness of producing works by hand, traveling on foot, buying gifts with coins earned by selling own wares, and the cycle of the year reassure me. It makes me feel secure and at peace. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations are likewise heartening. The book also has an educational side. It shows how some people lived in the past and the process of industry as well as  economics. Quieting and enlightening, Ox-cart Man is a book in the top of the list for my future children’s library.

E. Schellhase

Book information: Hall, Donald, and Barbara Cooney. Ox-cart Man. New York: Viking, 1979. Print.

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