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Marven of the Great North Woods

Updated on August 13, 2015

My Favorite Children's Book of all time

If it was you, could you have done it? Could you have endured being sent away from home at the ripe age of 10 to a logging camp in snow covered Minnesota? Marven did. He wasn't sent away because he had done anything wrong. It was because his family loved him. The logging camp in the great north woods would form a barrier of protection against the influenza outbreak of 1918.

The author, Kathryn Lasky, writes about an amazing time in the life of her father.

Is this story true?

Could it possibly be true?

Yes! This story is absolutely true. It is a retelling of the story of Kathryn Lasky's father, Marven Lasky, and his stay at a logging camp in 1918. The inside flap reads:"Marven of the Great North Woods is a true story about a small Jewish boy and a bearish French Canadian lumberjack-and how they became friends under the most unusual circumstances."

The photo to the right is a picture of Marven at age 10.

Marven's amazing story

Marven heads to the Great North Woods

The story begins with Marven sitting in the shadows of the stairs listening to a nighttime conversation between his parents and Uncle Moishe and Aunt Ghisa. The adults are discussing the urgency of keeping Marven safe from the flu epidemic. It is decided that he will go and keep the books at the logging camp - an accountant of sorts.

Two days later tearful goodbyes are felt as Marven boards the train headed for the logging camp. When he disembarks onto a remote depot platform in Behijim, Minnesota all that can be seen in front of him is a snow covered road. Some five miles straight ahead, a kind hearted man waits for him at the edge of the forest. So begins a 4 month stay in the great north woods.

Illustrations by Kevin Hawkes

Used with permission from Harcourt Trade Publishers

A new way of living and a new friendship

Marven befriends Jean Louis, a giant burly French Canadian lumberjack with "long, shaggy hair" and shoulders like "granite boulders". They eat meals together (Jean Louis finishing anything left on Marven's plate), and when the loggers gather together at night Marven dances on the shoulders of Jean Louis as folk music is played.

There are many other wonderful parts of this book I will not tell you about. I encourage you to read and enjoy this book on your own and keep it for all time.

My favorite part in the book... - Illustrator Kevin Hawkes creates an image that is unforgettable

What if your job at 10 years old was waking this sleeping giant of a lumberjack?

What if the only French words you knew were "bonjour" and "derrriere" translated in English as "Hello, bottom" or "Hello, rear end"?

Would you say it? That's all Marven knew to do. How do you think Jean Louis reacted?

This is Our Favorite Book

Marven of the Great North Woods

Marven of the Great North Woods
Marven of the Great North Woods

Every time I consider this book, I'm amazed that it really did happen. I cannot imagine sending my child off, all alone, to find a logging camp in the middle of nowhere. A resourceful 10 year old did it and much more when he lived among the lumberjacks as the resident bookkeeper. An amazing story.

Available in 2 formats. Paperback is available. Hardback Library Bindng may be sold out.


I contacted the author, Kathryn Lasky. She replied!

My note to Kathryn Lasky:

August 8, 2006


My daughter and I read "Marven of the Great North Woods" a couple of years ago and it has remained one of our favorite books. We just read it yet again and I thought I would try to write to you.

This book is extraordinary. I am so thankful that I stumbled across it. Your book has the humor, historical facts, and illustrations I look for. When we finish reading a children's book, we should have learned something new, laughed a little and learned at least a couple of new vocabulary words. It should also be memorable. Your book has it ALL. I give it an A+. There are only a very few books I would say are even in the same league as this one.

I remember shortly after reading it my grandfather asked in conversation, "Did you know there was a great flu epidemic around 1920?" Yes, I did know about it because of your book!

Thanks again,


Her reply:

August 21, 2006

Dear Paige,

I was so happy to receive your e-mail about Marven of the Great North Woods. It's a story that's close to my heart, and I enjoyed writing it. Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you, but I've been very busy, and have hardly had time to answer my e-mail.

Thanks so much for writing. It means a lot to an author to hear from readers like you.


Kathryn Lasky

Don't miss this Unit Study

There's a ton to be learned

as you're reading this book.

Take a look at this unit study for Marven of the Great North Woods. Includes: Life in 1918, Lumbering, Vocabulary, Applied Math, Jewish Culture, Foreign Language- French, Poetry Writing- Cinquain Poem, Grizzly Bears, Health: Influenza and much more all related to the story.

Unit Study from Homeschool Share

This is the best free online unit study I've ever seen. You will want to bookmark this website for other free unit studies.

Another incredible book about Lumberjacks


If you don't want to purchase this book, at least borrow it from your library. We did. One library system we've used did have this book on the shelf, and one did not so we inter-library loaned the book.

This book is chocked full of lumberjack facts. Some of the sections are; arrival in camp, lumberjack's breakfast, dynamiting a log jam, sharpening the saw, working in the rain and there are many others. The illustrations are wonderful.


Do you agree with me about this?

When I saw the cover on this children's book, I knew it would be a book with a great story. I might get some flack from this, but I stand by my opinion that you CAN judge a children's book by its cover. My statement applies only to children's books, not books for adults. Honestly, I've read hundreds and I dare say thousands of children's books over the last 10 years with my child and my shameless opinion on book covers has helped me sort through many miles of shelved books. What's your opinion?

Can you judge a children's book by it's cover?

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Have you read this book?

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    • profile image

      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      I'm glad I found this lens, what a great story, and being Minnesotan, right in my neighborhood. Author Mary Casanova has written many books for youg folk set here in the great northwoods....she had a website using her if you'd like to learn more.

    • rwoman profile image

      rwoman 7 years ago

      Congrats! So happy for you and your wonderful lens.

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

      congratulations on your purple star

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      I had never heard of it but it sounds utterly enchanting! Thanks for sharing it with us and congratulations on another well-deserved purple star.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Congrats on Purple star.

      Loved Marven's adventurous story a young boy had to endure a life full of adventures.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Many congratulations on a well deserved Purple Star

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congrats on your Purple Star and thanks for sharing an interesting book.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Congratulation on your new Purple Star, well deserved

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA


    • profile image

      ohcaroline 7 years ago

      You've whet my appetite for this book. Can't wait to read it. Thanks for letting us know about it.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      I had never heard of Marven of the Great North Woods before but I can hardly wait to read it.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a fascinating story.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Ah ... this is a great book to read! Such a fascinating story. ER ... bonjour derrriere!

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

      This is a VERY sweet book, and a great review lens!

      FYI The Homeschool Club is now open for business - future homeschool lenses built at HomeschoolClub/HQ will have the new club header!

    • strayspay profile image

      strayspay 8 years ago

      Nice lens and sounds like a fascinating book. I, too, love the picture of the lumberjack with one eye opened.

    • missbat profile image

      missbat 8 years ago

      What a fascinating look at history. Great job!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 8 years ago from New Zealand

      This sounds like a great book. I can't wait to read it. I love that you wrote the author and she wrote back. Great job here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      What a lovely book review. Thank you for emailing me to let me know it was done.

      I would love to read this book, I'm from northern Minnesota. I grew up at Kabetogama Lake by the Canadian and US border in an untamed wilderness area that is Voyageurs National Park.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      This sounds like a wonderful book. I especially like that it is a true story.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 8 years ago

      Where was this book when my son was that age? Or, more precisely where was I? Looks fantastic! I will order it for my grandsons. It's so cool that you corresponded and included your notes with the author of Marven of the Great North Woods, Kathryn Lasky

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 8 years ago from United States

      This sounds like a great book! I'll just have to add this to my Christmas list for my neice.

      Thanks for the intro. Great Lens!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh this sounds like a wonderful book that my Grandson would enjoy. I loved the note to and from the Author. Lensrolling to my Childrens Book lenses: Kate Salley Palmer and A Christmas Tree in the White House.