Friday, September 25, 2009

Farmington, MA in the 1850's

Barker, M.P. (2008) A Difficult Boy.  (Gr. 5-8)

Children in the United States today aren't bound as servants when their parents owe too much money, but indentured servants were an important factor in how this country was colonized and developed.  In this fictional account of 19th century Massachusetts, Ethan's father, a farmer who is better at planting than at managing his finances, sends his 9-year-old son to work off their debts to the family's creditor, a local storeowner and respected business man. The other bound servant, an Irish boy several years older than Ethan, is a victim of the storekeeper's violent discipline. Ethan, who sees beyond the rude stereotypes that the other farm workers have against the Irish, befriends the older boy and slowly pieces together their master's unknown dark side.

This is a fine work of historical fiction with strong characters, a well developed setting, and a plot that reveals ethnic discrimation, struggles with poverty, and small-town social classes of rural Massachusetts more than a century ago.

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