The Oxcart Man

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of the food, family, and traditions. For me, it starts the holiday season. Everyone always has Christmas stories that they turn to every year, but there is not as much literature celebrating Thanksgiving.

One story I consider appropriate for this time is The Oxcart Man by Donald Hall. It was first published in 1979 and won the Caldecott Medal in 1980. I learned of this book when my children watched the Reading Rainbow television show hosted by LeVar Burton. I still remember the deep, sonorous voice of the man reading the story, and the cadence of the phrases such as “the sheep sheared in April.”

Although there is no mention of Thanksgiving within the story, I find it appropriate for autumn because the farmer gathers up the items created throughout the year by his wife, son, and daughter. Everything is piled in a cart pulled by an ox to Portsmouth Harbor. There the farmer sells all his goods, including the cart, the ox, and his harness. With coins in his pocket, he buys an embroidery needle for his daughter, a whittling knife for his son, a kettle for his wife, and a pound of wintergreen peppermint candy for the whole family. Then he walks ten days back to his farm, where the whole creative cycle of making items from the farm’s products starts over again.

I read this story for many years to my children and still own the well-used copy. I pulled it out again to read again to write this post. Once again the phrases like “sheep sheared in April” captured my interest and made me grateful for the ease of obtaining what I need in this day and age.