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FARMHOUSE

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 1 year, 8 months ago

18 October 2022 FARMHOUSE by Sophie Blackall, Little Brown, September 2022, 48p., ISBN: 978-0-316-52894-8

 

“Father wears his Sunday best

Mother's tired, she needs a rest

The kids are playing up downstairs

Sister's sighing in her sleep 

Brother's got a date to keep

He can't hang around”

– Madness “Our House” (1983)

 

“Plainview's origins date to 1648, when Robert Williams, a settler from Wales, bought land in the area. The land was considered desirable for farming because of a small pond named the Moscopas by local Native Americans, meaning ‘hole of dirt and water.’ The remainder of the land in the area was purchased by Thomas Powell in 1695 as part of the Bethpage Purchase. The name ‘Mannatto Hill’ had already appeared on the 1695 deed of the Bethpage Purchase, and the settlement came to be called ‘Manetto Hill.’ Manitou was the Native American word either for ‘god’ or for ‘spirit.’

The 1837 arrival of the Long Island Rail Road to nearby Hicksville brought a boom to local farming. In 1885, residents of Manetto Hill petitioned the United States Postal Service for a local post office, but were turned down because, according to several accounts, a similar name was already in use upstate. The hamlet was then named ‘Plainview,’ for the view of the Hempstead Plains from the top of the Manetto Hills.

Plainview remained a farming community, famous for growing cucumbers for the huge Heinz pickle factories located in nearby Farmingdale and Hicksville. In the early 1900s blight destroyed the cucumber crop and many farmers switched to potatoes. After World War II, a potato blight combined with the desire of many returning GIs to leave New York City for the more rural Long Island, convinced many farmers to sell their property, leading to massive development in the area, giving rise to so-called suburban sprawl. Between 1950 and 1960, the hamlet grew from a population of 1,155 to more than 35,000. Most of the available land was developed during this period or otherwise designated as parkland.”

– from the Wikipedia page, “Plainview, New York”

 

I didn’t know all of that! 

 

My family was part of the population explosion that took place in Plainview between 1950 and 1960. (With kids in virtually every house on the block, my grandfather enjoyed referring to our neighborhood as Fertile Valley.) That little ranch house was the first home I knew. 

 

By the time I reached school age, there were very few farmhouses or farms left anywhere near there. I recall how exciting it was to walk across town with my kindergarten class, on a field trip to pick our own bags of veggies. Our destination that day was a small farm that has now been gone for nearly sixty years. 

 

The population of the United States just about doubled over the second half of the twentieth century. As in Plainview, the historic postwar rise of suburbia in America led to countless farms across the country being sold for housing developments. Many old farmhouses were torn down and replaced or paved over. But, as with the (upstate New York) subject dwelling in Sophie Blackall’s FARMHOUSE, some old houses were abandoned to the vagaries of the elements and the local critters.

 

In this rhythmic tale, Ms Blackall first imagines and chronicles details of a long-ago family who lived at that farmhouse. 

 

Over a hill,

at the end of a road,

by a glittering stream

that twists and turns,

stands a house

where twelve children

were born and raised,

where they learned to crawl

in the short front hall,

where they posed, arranged

on the wooden stairs,

and were measured with marks

over the years,

where they carved potatoes

and dipped them in paint

to pattern the walls

with flowers and leaves,

and painted the cat,

about which they lied…”

 

The tale of the family concludes with the youngest child, now quite old, bidding the house a final farewell.

 

Then, Ms. Blackall breaks the fourth wall. The book’s crafting becomes part of the story. She details how she explored a falling-down farmhouse, plundered scraps from the ruins, and utilized those bits and pieces in creating the illustrations for this delightful and stunningly beautiful picture book.

 

There are several great directions in which FARMHOUSE can be followed up. Classes can learn about the history of their own town or city. A timeline can be quite useful in helping students to visualize the extended history of their locale. Perhaps there are some notable old houses in the vicinity that can be discussed or even visited. 

 

Secondly, teachers can request help from parents in accumulating a good collection of found objects, with which students can then craft their own found object pictures.

 

FARMHOUSE is a stellar addition to this year’s books for children. Don’t miss it.

 

Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/

https://twitter.com/richiespicks        

richiepartington@gmail.com  

 

 

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