Monday, August 13, 2007

Little Heathens

By Mildred Kalish

This book got a lot of attention in the local media (both neighborhood and city papers, I mean) because the author is now living in the Almaden Valley. Amazingly, this is her first book, written after a lifetime as an English teacher -- I guess it's not too surprising that it's so beautifully written. I liked the various quotations she had interspersed throughout the text, too, doubtless another byproduct of her chosen vocation.

You could describe this book as a kind of combination of Letters from a Woman Homesteader and the Little House books. She writes about growing up on a farm, raised by a single mother and an extended family, under circumstances where cash was scarce but hard work produced bountiful food. Despite all the chores necessary to keep the farm going, she and her siblings managed to find plenty of time for reading and games and getting up to mischief. It sounds like a wonderful childhood.

Her adult life is added almost as an afterthought, but it sounds pretty interesting too. Military service, teaching career, family extending now to several grandchildren, all the while maintaining the health and vigor to still chop and stack wood (the jacket picture, in fact, shows her standing in front of a wood pile).

Like the Little House books, this book is charming for many reasons. It describes an interesting, warm family life, even though the culture of that family was not one for overt displays of affection. It has interesting tidbits of how-to information relevant to a way of life that is passing, or maybe even already gone. It even has recipes! And through it all, the voice of the author, who clearly has a great personality. She attributes it to her upbringing, but I think she was born with it.



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