post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Calico Bush
Author: Rachel Field
Major Themes: French and Indian War, Maine, Pioneers
Synopsis: A French girl finds herself indentured to a family headed for the wilds of Maine to carve out a new life for themselves, not knowing what terrible events awaited them.
Calico Bush is a story that makes me cry every time I read it, and I believe I’ve read it aloud about four times now. This is a wonderful story, but very sad, as well. It certainly brings home the hardships the early pioneers suffered as they tried to carve out a new and better life for themselves in the wilderness!
Marguerite is only 12 when her uncle dies on the ship taking them to America, and it isn’t long before her grandmother dies, as well. Left alone and penniless, the young girl finds herself basically sold as an indentured servant to a family who are on their way to the wilderness of Maine. Now called Maggie, because Marguerite is too French, she never hears a word of her native tongue, and she feels very much alone. The little children of the family love her, but will Caleb ever learn even to respect her?
Life in the wilderness proves to be very difficult—much more difficult than any of the family had ever imagined. When the man of the family stubbornly decides to settle on a point of land that is apparently significant to the Indians, despite the warnings of neighbors, things go wrong, one after another. How can Marguerite survive, and help the family she is bound to but beginning to feel a part of herself?
This is an amazing story of resourcefulness and courage, as well as of neighborly love. There is so much to love about the story—even if it makes you cry. I would say my favorite part of this book was seeing Marguerite learn to cope with her new way of life. My favorite character, however, was Aunt Hepsa, the neighbor on the island just offshore from the point on which Marguerite lives—she’s a special old lady! She takes Marguerite under her wing and cares for the girl as much as possible.
Calico Bush is laid out in an interesting format. Instead of chapters, there are four parts to the book, one for each season. Therefore, the book covers one year in the life of a pioneer family. This book is a great way to understand what people had to endure to prepare the way for the easy lives we live today.
WARNING: On page 78, in the Fall section, a little boy is hit on the head. Also in the Fall section, on pages 96-97, a cave is discovered containing human remains. On page 113, in the Winter section, someone exclaims, “By Godfrey.” On page 143, in the Winter section, a baby is badly burned and dies several pages later. In the Spring section, page 174 and several following pages, the father is badly injured, and the Indians come back but no one is hurt.
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15
Links to buy Calico Bush:
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
Keywords: French and Indian War, Maine, Pioneers