Thursday, November 18, 2021

Reading Through History: Away Goes Sally by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1934)

Away Goes Sally
is a vintage children's historical fiction novel about a New England family living just before the War of 1812. Sally's home is filled with relatives: some of whom, like her Uncle Joseph, want to accept Uncle Ephraim's invitation to settle in Maine and some of whom, like Nannie, would prefer to stay in their own home. When Uncle Joseph finds a way to transport the entire house to Maine in order to satisfy everyone's wishes, Sally is along for an exciting ride through wilderness and harsh wintry conditions. 

I read this short novel aloud to my kids this past spring, and it was a pleasant and enjoyable story. My girls really enjoyed the story of the journey, and the logistics of moving a house during this time period. I found myself wishing for a little less exposition at the start of the book and more time spent on the actual travel, but that was really just a matter of personal preference. 

The really nice thing is that this story reveals a lot of details about what it might have been like to live during this time period, not against the backdrop of a major historical event, but in the context of one family's major decision to move to a new place. The reader is pleasantly immersed in the world of the early 1800s without being bogged down by the political, military and social concerns that often dominate historical fiction.

We read this book for fun, and not to accompany a specific lesson, and it worked perfectly for us. Kids who are reluctant to read historical fiction (as I was as a child) might be persuaded to look upon it more kindly after reading a light and entertaining story like this one.  Elizabeth Coatsworth is, in general, the perfect author to turn to for historical stories filled with believable everyday people and their experiences.

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