Saturday, December 3, 2011
Miracles on Maple Hill (1957)
10-year-old Marly needs a miracle. Her family needs one. Her father wasn't the same when he came back from the war and she wants so much for him, and their family, to be happy again. Marly's parents decide that they should visit Maple Hill and that Marly's dad, Dale, should stay there for a while. Marly's mom, Lee, visited her grandmother at Maple Hill when she was a little girl, and they hope that getting out of the city (Pittsburgh) and into nature will help Dale get over his depression. (Although they never use the word depression, the description of how Dale behaves seems to be that.)
When they arrive at Maple Hill the snow was so deep they got stuck and had to get help from Mr. Chris. Lee had known him as a girl, but since her grandmother had died, she hadn't been back. Mr. Chris is collecting maple from the trees and takes them to the sugar camp where the maple sap is collected and boiled down. When Marly smelled it, it was "absolute sweetness...like passing an orchard in full bloom. But different." Mr. Chris said, "Your great-grandma used to say there was all outdoors in that smell. She called it the first miracle when the sap come up." (p. 14) At that point, Marly knew there would be miracles.
When the kids (Marly has a 12-year-old brother named Joe) and Lee next visit, they find Dale to be much happier, and when school gets out for summer, they return for those months. Mr. Chris points out to Marly the plants and animals in nature. And she sees in each one a miracle. They make friends with Harry the hermit, for whom Joe gains a great admiration.
The family has to make a big decision. Whether to go back to the city, or to move to Maple Hill. You can probably guess which they decide. So Marly gets to see the miracles of fall and winter as well.
Although this was not my favorite Newbery, I enjoyed Marly's view of miracles--that miracles surround us and that we just have to see them and recognize them as miracles.
Some quotes I liked:
When Lee introduced Dale to Mr. and Mrs. Chris, Marly thought, "Her voice was even more special when she said, 'This is Dale,' than when she said, 'This is Marly,' or 'This is Joe.' Marly loved the voice and the look that seemed to say: Isn't he wonderful?" (p. 17)
Marly's view on boys and girls. "For the millionth time, she was glad she wasn't a boy. It was all right for girls to be scared or silly or even ask dumb questions. Everybody just laughed and thought it was funny. But if anybody caught Joe asking a dumb question or even thought he was the littlest bit scared, he went red and purple and white. Daddy was even something like that, as old as he was." (p.99)
Harry on Mr. Chris. "When you have done a great many good things, you forget to speak of them. It is those who do very little who must talk of it." (p. 119)
Dale on his prison camp experience. "Some of the people in camp helped each other all the time. Some others never thought about anything or anybody but themselves. I'd never known before how different people can be." (p. 140)
Sorensen, Virginia. Miracles on Maple Hill. Harcourt, 1957.