Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Matchlock Gun

by Walter D. Edmonds

Set during the French and Indian War, this 1942 Newbery winner tells of an episode in a Dutch-American frontier family. When the father is gone to track Indians, a scouting group of braves comes to the house, with only the young mother, Gertrude, and her eldest child Edward, to fight them off. Really no more than a short story, this slim book’s charm is in its tossed-off details – the young couple getting married despite his mother’s objections, the way another man rides his horse, the chores that need to be done on the frontier, the loft which the children sleep in heated by the day's fire – which give it some depth and make its characters more relatable. The “plot,” which just boils down to one brief and somewhat dubious action, is not particularly interesting. It’s a nice story, but was it really the best children’s book of its year? I can’t imagine it.

three stars

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