Shaker Lane Paperback – Sep 27 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
Called "an unforgettable piece of real estate" in a boxed PW review, this spare story chronicles the transformation of a rural street into a characterless suburban housing development. All ages.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 1 Up A non-sentimental account of ``social progress,'' a pattern of life common to all parts of this country and probably most Western societies. As the Herkimer sisters, rural inhabitants, grew old, they sold off parts of their land to those with modest incomes and a laid-back lifestyle. Then land developers arrived, created a reservoir, and forced the poor to move out to be replaced by middle-class families. Low key in the telling, with a focus on the people, the double-page spread paintings capture the horizontality of the landscape. Opaque, flat colors define clapboard houses, bare autumn branches, and a motley assortment of pooches with equal conviction. The Provensens show the makings of a rural ``slum,'' and readers feel the sense of community built by the La Roses and the Kulicks and the Whipple twins. Each group is defined as individuals by the details of their lives: the condition of their houses, the variety of junk in the yard, the kind of vehicle parked on the grass. Although there's no doubt about the aura of authenticity of the scenes painted, there's equally no doubt about the Provensens' thoughtfulness of the range of yellow-greens used to depict fallow fields, or the use of a few bright clothes on a clothesline to contrast with the graying landscape or the scruffy clouds that add emotional stature to the scene announcing the building of the reservoir. A beautiful blend of direct telling and subtle showing. Kenneth Marantz, Art Education Department, Ohio State University, Columbus
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The town originally began when two widows started selling plots of their vast land a half acre or so at a time, when they became unable to tend the fields themselves. The ladies "sold them cheap." Slowly but surely, the town grew bit by bit, with kindly rural folk moving in. Eventually, a smell rural town developed.
The people, most with little education, lived simply, and tended to strew their property about their yards: old iceboxes, wheel-less cars, assorted broken down farm vehicles. Soon the surrounding folks began to heckle the place. Still, the people of Shaker Lane were good, honest, decent folk. Multi-generation families lived there. They helped out anyone who needed it, and looked after one another. Everybody knew everybody. It was a peaceful place to live.
Inevitably, the Powers That Be decide to build a dam on the nearby pond, which will flood Shaker Lane. The people will have to move. One by one, they go. Sadly.
Once the dam is built, and the lands adapt, the new building begins. Concrete, stucco, and asphalt in place of wood and metal. Brand new modern homes, with manicured yards, backyard patios, basketball courts, and built-in swimming pools. "Single family homes" without the grandparents, cousins, uncles, etc the previous residents had. Lots of loud, new, fancy automobiles. Progress.
What had been an idyllic, peaceful town full of kindly neighbors who helped one other is now a "modern" semi-suburb lived in by an entirely different sort of people. The old (and elderly) residents have given way to the young. Seeing it now, "You wouldn't know the place," we are told.
A well-told story, not for younger children, even though it looks like a children's picture book. The story is quite sad, poignant because of the harsh reality of these situations, as they have been happening as "suburbs" creep farther out and out. Progress.
The illustrations are beautifully rendered in a soft way. The book is hard to classify, although recommended.
It is basically a story about a farm that sold off land "cheap" which became a small community that then became a little trashy and finally was turned into a reservoir. I thought it so funny and odd that we were reading a story about such an odd history. Not like any kids' book I've ever read before and VERY interesting. My son, who was 5 when we bought it, got something completely different out of it. The book not only tells the story of what happened to this little community, it introduces you to just about everyone who lives there, showing you their homes, giving the names of their children and even mentioning their pets. He loved learning the different people and how they were related. And counting the animals and children. He loves the one old guy who sort of collects dogs and junk and is the last to remain in the area "I like the water" he says from his new houseboat on the last page. Such a whimsical folktale!
The main reason that I recommend this for smaller children is that it really does teach compassion -- it talks about the people in this poorer neighborhood and you like them. Then it mentions that outsiders saw them as nuisances and there is even a scene where school-kids tease them from the bus that goes by. What a wonderful opportunity to say "See, honey? That wasn't nice, was it?" and instill a sense of kindness toward the less fortunate, if nothing else. As he grows older though I can see that he would get more and more about it and even learn about eminent domain. The pictures are wonderful. Just wonderful! This book needs to go back into print! It is a favorite in our house. I wish the Provensens would write another in a similar style.
The pictures are beautiful.