Ox-Cart Man was another book recommended to me by the branch manager at the library where I work. He told me that it was a simple story and that he cries every time he reads it. I had to check it out.
Ox-Cart Man follows a man in early nineteenth-century New England as he packs up everything his family has grown and made in the past year to sell in the market. All of his family’s goods are packed into the main character’s cart and taken to Portsmouth so that he can sell it to buy new tools for the next season.
I really enjoyed this story about a completely self-sufficient family. As the cart is loaded with all of their goods, we learn that all of these things have been grown and made by the different members of the family. Everyone has their role and nothing is wasted. The ox-cart man sells all of his goods, and then spends the money to buy more supplies and tools for his family for the coming year. He buys a new needle for his daughter so she can sew some more mittens, a knife for his son, a new pot for his wife, and a gift for his family: some wintergreen candies. The book ends in quiet anticipation of the year to come, in which the family will use the all of their new supplies to create and grow new goods.
The story was very simple and peaceful. The prose is sometimes repetitive but this made it somewhat lyrical. It turned the book into bit of a song, which I really enjoyed. The book describes a very quiet and peaceful time in our history, which I enjoyed reading about very much. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations match the story quite well to create the feelings of this serene time. I enjoyed her use of colors, all earth-tones, which I thought matched the feel of the book.
I think Ox-Cart Man would be perfect to use in social studies/history classes for kids to show just how simple this time was, especially in comparison to our technology saturated world. It’s a beautiful book.
Written by Donald Hall; illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Published by Puffin; October 1979
40 pages (paperback)