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Marven of the Great North Woods
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
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!
August 21, 2006
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.
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.
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.
More links of interest
- Timeline of logging in Minnesota
This book, Marven of the Great North Woods is referenced in this timeline.
- History of the the influenza outbreak of 1918
Interestingly tells of concerns from officials at the time and steps taken to control the outbreak.
- A Day in the Life of a Lumberjack
Click on times of the day to find out what a lumberjack would do during those times. Lots of lumberjack "jargon" and period photographs.
- Flu pandemic related photos
Life Magazine chronicles the flu pandemic through a series of photos. Don't miss the captions underneath that explain the pictures.
- About the author, Kathryn Lasky
All about Kathryn Lasky, her books, what's on her mind now and a short biography.
- About the illustrator, Kevin Hawkes
To put it in Kevin's words, "It seems that all of my characters come from places where the lampposts are never straight, the hills impossibly steep, and the skies impossibly blue."
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?