Friday, December 23, 2011

Black-eyed Susan by Jennifer Armstrong

Here is another old book which we have had to take out of our library due to wear and tear. Black-eyed Susan is a mix of Little House on the Prairie and Sarah Plain and Tall.

Susie lives on the plains of Dakota. Even though I am not at all familiar with this landscape, Armstrong is such a lyrical writer I have a vivid picture in my mind from her words. “There wasn’t a tree within twenty miles of us, just some twisty box elders and cottonwoods along the creek … we shared the view again seeing how the land lay about us and fell in swells and rises, the movement of the wind visible in the movement of the grass.”

Susie lives in a sod house made from the earth with her mother and father but while Susie celebrates life every day by standing on the roof, arms outstretched to welcome the sun, her mother is living in the fog a deep depression. She can no longer leave the house and seems unable to smile or enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Susie and her father travel to town. Susie sees a piano for the first time and has fun interacting with the owners of the local general store. On the way home they meet up with a family of eight from Iceland who are moving west to start a new life. Susie and her father invite them to stay the night and this encounter becomes a turning point for Susie’s mother. She can now move on with her life and she might even bake a pie!

The title comes from the flowers her father plants each year on the roof of their sod house. “Every spring he planted them thick on the roof .. and when they bloomed in summer you could see our house standing out from the green prairie from just miles away.”

I probably should not have reviewed this book since it is no longer in our school library but perhaps you will be lucky and find one somewhere. If not you must read Sarah Plain and Tall and you might also enjoy Hill Hawke Hattie by Clara Gillow Clark.

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