Monday, November 5, 2007

Genre 5: Historical Fiction/Biography

1. Bibliography:
LaFaye, A. 2004. WORTH. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1416916245

2. Plot Summary:
Twelve-year-old Nate is injured at the beginning of this story and can no longer help his family with the grueling demands of maintaining a farm on the Nebraska prairie. His father brings in John Worth, an orphan from New York City, to help with the job. Nate and John, each fighting their own internal battles, must overcome their differences and work together to save the farmland from the ‘fence cutters’ who are trying to wreak havoc on the community.

3. Critical Analysis:
Alexandria LaFaye creates a moving story of friendship and courage in her account of two boys in nineteenth century Nebraska. The setting of the story makes the historical period come to life. Nate is injured while working on the family farm during a lightening storm. Medical attention is hard to come by and practices for mending a broken leg were much different in the 1800’s. After months of recuperating, he is lame and unable to help his father tend to the crops. When Nate’s father brings home an orphan boy to help with the chores, Nate begins to feel insecure about his worth. LaFaye keeps the dialog true to the spirit of the time. “On account of my mood, Ma thought my leg had me down in the body, so she brought me my supper in bed.” Her style reflects the flavor of the times and she creates a beautiful story of overcoming adversity in the unyielding Nebraska prairie. Nate must deal with his injury and inability to pull his weight on the farm and John must adjust to his new surroundings that are so different from his city upbringing and deal with the grief from the loss of his family. Both Nate and John discover their ‘worth’ and find their true value to their family and the community. Readers will identify with Nate’s jealousy of John and his insecurity about not living up to his father’s expectations. These are timeless emotions that readers of all ages can appreciate and share. LaFaye has created an enjoyable tale of daring and hope and leaves you wondering what happens next.

4. Review Excerpts:
Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction Winner 2005
Starred in BOOKLIST. “The short, spare novel doesn't need the heavy heroic parallels; it tells its own story of darkness and courage. A great choice for American history classes.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “This short tale has a quietly epic sweep.”
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “A satisfying piece of historical fiction.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Alexandria LaFaye:
NISSA’S PLACE. ISBN 0-689-82610-9
*Read and compare with other books written by A. LaFaye and look for similarities and differences.
*Research the North American Council on Adoptable Children (
*Research Orphan Trains at
*Create a Readers Theatre to enact from Chapter 18, “What We Learn”.
Other related books:
Osborne, Mary Pope. 1989. FAVORITE GREEK MYTHS. ISBN 0-590-41338-4
Warren, Andrea. 1996. ORPHAN TRAIN RIDER: ONE BOY’S TRUE STORY. ISBN 0-395-69822-7

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