Miracles on Maple Hill (Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic)

by Virginia Sorensen

Hardcover, 2003



Local notes

Fic Sor





Harcourt Children's Books (2003), Edition: 1-Simul, 232 pages


After her father returns from the war moody and tired, Marly's family decides to move from the city to Maple Hill Farm in the Pennsylvania countryside where they share many adventures which help restore their spirits and their bond with each other.


Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1959)
Newbery Medal (Medal Winner — 1957)
Vermont Golden Dome Book Award (Nominee — 1957-1958)

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

232 p.; 5.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
This 1957 Newbery medal winner is a delightful, slow walk into a time when old fashioned values were the norm -- a time when children were polite; a time when children respected parents; a time when neighbors helped one another; a time when there was less focus on "me" and more focus on "us".

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the book is timeless in addressing issues that are still with us today. Marly's father returns from the war, while the specific war isn't mentioned, one can assume WWII. Marly's father was a POW and is deeply emotionally tramatized with post tramatic stress.

Leaving the city life behind, the family moves back to the family home in rural Pennsylvania. They arrive during the time when the maple sugar is flowing from the trees. A gentle neighbor friend shows them the joys of capturing the maple and processing it.

While the book is corny and perhaps some would say hokey, I enjoyed it for the wonderful message of the healing powers of nature and the joys of life simply embraced when leaving behind the chaos of a frantic life style.
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LibraryThing member tracyslaybaugh
Miracles on Maple Hill is the 1957 Newbery winner that is about a family who at first just visit and then move to rural Pennsylvania to the old family farm. They make these changes to help cope with the father returning home after the war. The story is told from Marly’s viewpoint, the
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ten-year-old daughter and the title gives a clue of the wonderful things that happen to the family at Maple Hill.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and don’t let the 1957 scare you off, it really is timeless. Sorensen gives wonderful descriptive details of the characters and also the setting. I could actually visualize the syrup making process

You could have students read this book to make comparisons of the differences between 1957 and now. You could also make this book a part of a unit on how different things are made, like the maple syrup in this book.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Marly's mother used to visit her grandmother on Maple Hill, where there was all the outdoors to play in, and where you might say that miracles happen. Now, Marly's mother has inherited the little house on Maple Hill, and Marly and her family are going to spend some time there -- weekends, and then
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the summer -- and Marly is hoping for a miracle. Her father came home from the war with deep psychological wounds, and life in their city apartment is not helping him recover. Maybe at Maple Hill, where there is work to be done in the fresh country air, their family can come together and be as they once were. Arriving in the early spring, Marly's family is introduced to the almost magical (but labor-intensive) process of collecting maple sap and converting it into syrup. They learn this, and many other useful things about country life, from their neighbor, Mr. Chris. Are there still miracles on Maple Hill? Marly is about to find out.

I enjoyed this book for a lot of reasons. It's what some people think of as a "typical" Newbery (though there are plenty that break the mold): female protagonist, rich writing and character development, not a lot of plot. I like that sort of story if the writing is truly good enough to draw you in, and it certainly is in this case. However, readers who enjoy a more action-packed narrative might get impatient with this story, which reads like a long, leisurely hike through the woods. I also appreciated the wealth of detail about maple sugaring (a process I have been involved in at my own grandparents' Pennsylvania farm, so I can attest to the accuracy of the description) and all of the nature description. The writing reminded me of Madeleine L'Engle -- perhaps not surprising, since this is a story from a similar era; only five years separate this book and A Wrinkle in Time. (L'Engle usually has a bit more in they way of plot, though, I would say.) I'm not sure how well or poorly this book handles the depiction of Marly's father's PTSD, since I don't have a great deal of knowledge on the subject. I will say, though, that any improvement he saw was not immediate, but was a slow process, aided, perhaps, by peace and work. Judging by the year of the book's publication, I'm guessing that the war her father served in was the Korean War, though I suppose it might have been WWII. My grandfather served in Korea, so that was another personal connection I made with this book. It was just the right book for me, so I would recommend it to readers who like the same sorts of contemplative, character-driven narratives that I enjoy.
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LibraryThing member Homeschoolbookreview
Ten-year-old Marley lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her father Dale, mother Lee, and twelve-year-old brother Joe. Her dad has come home from having been a prisoner during the war, but he’s not the same. He’s moody and tired and seems as cold and dead as the winter outside. So the family decides
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to spend the spring and summer at Maple Hill Farm, the old place where Marley’s great-grandmother had lived and where Marley’s mother used to visit as a child, up in the corner of Pennsylvania’s countryside. There they meet Mr. and Mrs. Chris, Grandma’s neighbors whom Marley’s mother remembers from her childhood visits. At first, Marley and Joe are afraid that they will miss their life in the city. Joe had wanted to join the bad at his city school, but the little school at Maple Hill doesn’t have a band. But they begin to have many adventures sugaring with the Chrises, fixing up the old house, and experiencing other “miracles.” Will Daddy get any better? Will Marley’s family return to Pittsburgh or will they decide to stay at Maple Hill? And when Mr. Chris gets very sick and has to go to the hospital, what will happen to him?
This 1957 Newbery Medal winner is a delightful story that is deserving of the award. There are a couple of common euphemisms—gee and golly, one reference to chewing tobacco, and a mention of glaciers “millions of years ago.” I especially enjoyed the way the truant officer ended up handling the time when Marley and Joe were kept home from school to help the Chrises with their maple sugaring. A couple of reviewers said that the role model for girls is horrific because the girl is weak, cries, moans, etc., and that the sexist stereotypes made it difficult to stay with the story because Marly and her mother do ‘woman things’ at the house together.
I can see how a femi-nazi or someone raised on femi-nazi propaganda would reach this kind of conclusion, but honestly it gets old hearing those who may disagree with traditional roles for boys and girls yell “sexism” every time they don’t like the way girls are portrayed. Not every family is raising their daughters to be “I am woman, hear me roar.” And recent studies have suggested an actual biological basis for some of the emotional differences between males and females. Most of the reader reviewers liked the book, except the one mentioned previously and a couple of “kid reviews” which said that the book was too boring and not exciting enough. Of course, every book, even a good one, may not appeal to all people. However, my experience is that a lot of kids whose minds have been numbed by the helter-skelter, hooey-phooey, hocus-pocus, harum-scarum, hokey-fenokee type of stories like Harry Potter and Goosebumps often don’t have enough attention span left to enjoy a real story. I would recommend Miracles on Maple Hill as a book which chronicles the joys of simple living.
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LibraryThing member MereYom
My kids did not like this book. The author spends quite a bit of time detailing the various plant life on a Pennsylvania mountain. The action is slow.
LibraryThing member Cottonwood.School
Marly and her family share many adventures when they move from the city to a farmhouse on Maple Hill.
LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
A fantastic cozy feeling throughout the whole book. I read the entire thing curled up under a blanket! I loved the character of Marly - such a clever and big-hearted girl, with a sympathetic point of view. Finally, I really enjoyed Sorensen's simple style. The scenes said just enough, no more. My
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quibbles would be (1) the dated writing (all that talk of what girls can't do!), and (2) the lack of a life-changing theme. I felt like the "miracles" theme could have been intensified and developed a bit more. But a very beautiful book nonetheless!
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LibraryThing member debnance
This is the kind of book I was afraid I was in for when I decided to read the Newbery books. The truth is that it was and it wasn’t. A white family, looking at the world, saying, “Oh gosh,” and “Oh golly,” facing issues like the son staying out too late and wondering where he is, facing
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how to get the big maple sugar crop in before it ruins, and lots and lots of “You can’t do that; you’re a girl.”But it was also more. Dad was thought killed after time in a war camp, but he returns home, safe but scarred. Marly, the ten-year-old daughter, doesn’t listen to all the warnings about girls being unable to do things. Moving to the country heals. The family develops a deep friendship with an elderly couple nearby. The couple is warm and loving, but does not come across as overly false.The details about maple sugaring are fun and new. The family heals, and reading about that process feels good. Yes, there are (sorry) sappy parts, but they, too, feel part of the time in which the story was written. Refreshing, somehow.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This is a simple tale of the healing miracles of rural living and the work and friendships that Marly's family found. Ms. Sorensen addresses such ideas as the paradox between hunting and valuing life, the damages of war and the healing of nature, and learning to look beyond appearances and
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prejudices. Marly is an appealing character - wanting miracles to happen in her family, alternately annoyed with her older brother and then loving him more fiercely than ever. Watching Marly's family come together after the difficulties caused by the father's time during the war is a rewarding read.
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LibraryThing member Elentarien
Have not finished listening to it yet, but I rather like it so far. Its a 'sweet' story, and seems to have an innocence unlike most modern books. Its well acted and well read, making for a nice listen while knitting or cross-stitching. Definitely for children or young readers, but still pleasant
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for adults who are 'young at heart' as well. Definitely a nice addition to this company's collection.
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LibraryThing member lnewlun
Post Depression Era, Family moves to a Syrup farm for economic reasons. There they find comfort for their hurts and a new family. Very descriptive passages.
LibraryThing member satyridae
Delightful story set right after WWII. Marly's dad comes home from the war and he's sad and mad by turns. The family relocates to Maple Hill, where they become immersed in the country life and learn about maple syrup and neighborly connections. Sweet but not treacly, and full of believable miracles.
LibraryThing member klburnside
Marly's dad is having a hard time adjusting when he returns to Pennsylvania after being held as a prisoner of war during WWII. To find space for healing, ten year old Marly and her family move to the family's old farmhouse on Maple Hill in rural Pennsylvania. The book chronicles their first year
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spent on Maple Hill, looking for everyday miracles in nature and their family.

There is a lot of talk about maple sugaring in this book, and it was interesting to learn about. What I appreciated more was the use of maple sugaring and spring in general as a metaphor for rebirth and renewal. As spring arrives, the sap flows, the wildflowers bloom, and Marly's father begins to smile and sing again. The restorative and rejuvenating powers of both nature and meaningful work were captured very well in this book.

I wasn't particularly drawn to the characters of Marly and her brother, but I did like the family dynamic. You could tell they all loved each other a lot, and the dad was just so sad and broken and everyone was so unsure of how to help him. This was my favorite aspect of the book, but it really wasn't fully explored, I guess because it is some pretty heavy stuff and this is a children's book. There are a lot of the classic children book elements that got a little tedious: outdoor adventures, a girl proving her strength and bravery to her brother, the scary hermit who is actually a misunderstood good guy. Overall, one of the better Newbery books. (1957)

I think I've started rating Newbery winners on their own scale. This is a three star book, but a four star Newbery.
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LibraryThing member fingerpost
Marley's family (Mom, Dad, and slightly older brother Joe) leaves the big city to visit the rural Pennsylvania Maple growing area where her mother was raised. They meet nice neighbors, learn how to identify plants, and how to make maple syrup. That's pretty much the entire plot. The point of the
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book isn't telling a story so much as just being a gentle paean to an old fashioned, rural life. And that is fine. That's not the reason this book is so weak.
None of the characters are developed into truly interesting three dimensional people; they're all just cardboard cutouts who exist with only one or two personality traits. The blurb on the back of my edition says that the big "miracle" of Maple Hill is that it cures Marley's father's post traumatic stress disorder from fighting in the war. However, in the actual book, though this is strongly implied, we never see her father at his worst, and it's rarely mentioned... we just see him doing better and the Mom says a few times that this visit is good for him.
Perhaps the biggest of the many drawbacks that prevent this book from aging well... Marley and Joe seem constructed solely to reinforce 1950s era gender stereotypes. It's absolutely embarrassing how the author portrays Joe (12 I think) as brave and strong, while Marley (10) is weak and emotional and fearful. Ugh.
I'd skip this one. Most of the Newbery winners are excellent, but this one was a dud.
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LibraryThing member LisCarey
Marly, Joe, and their parents have been struggling for a while, since the father of the children returned home from war.. In addition to the experience of combat itself, he was captured, and in a prisoner of war camp for months. He was then hospitalized for a while before being able to return
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But Daddy is suffering from what today we would call PTSD. He reacts very strongly to loud or sudden noises, is often sunk in depression, and equally often reacts to even small disagreements, even between others, with a frightening anger. Marly sometimes guiltily thinks things were better before Daddy came home.

But their mother, Lee, has inherited her grandmother's farm in New England. Her brother lived in it after Grandmother died, but he's gone now too. The farm is available, to get them out of the city, into the country and the open air, and a way of life different from the one that her husband can't seem to cope with anymore. With some prodding from Marly, whether that factored in or not, they move to the farm, initially just for school break, and start fixing it up.

Grandmother always told Lee that miracles happened on Maple Hill, and Marly in particular is hoping that's true.

The first people they meet, when they have not quite made it to the farm, are the Chris family. Mr. Chris tows them out of the slick spot on the road, and Mrs. Chris--Chrissy--invites them to stay for dinner. This is exactly what the children's father hoped to avoid--country people who are always helping each other and everyone knows everybody's business. Yet the dinner is wonderful, the Chrises are friendly and welcoming, and Lee doesn't have to cook for everyone when they reach the farm after the long drive from Pennsylvania.

Over the next weeks, the hoped-for miracles start to happen. They found Mr. Chris, or Chris as everyone calls him, at his sugar camp, making maple syrup. It's the first time Marly and Joe have tasted maple syrup made from sap boiled down straight from the tree. Both the children get to help, and to Marly, it's a miracle.

Over school break, Joe and Marly both learn a few lessons, and have adventures with Chris, as he teaches each of them to see the natural world all around them. Lee is enjoying (mostly) restoring her grandmother's farm to a working home again. Daddy is doing repairs, and when school break is over, he stays to continue the work. He seems a little calmer and less stressed, but no dramatic change yet.

Over the summer and the next winter, they encounter miracles of nature, interaction with animals both domestic and wild. It's a gentle story of a family rebuilding itself, and making a new life after their father's experiences in the war (the war is not named, but either World War II or Korea are plausible), made life in the city and returning to his old job untenable.

It's important to remember that it is the 1950s, and there's a long list of things Girls Are Not Allowed To Do, that boys are. The book accepts this as normal, but Marly is "a tomboy." She resists those restrictions, and sometimes she wins. There are also occasional bits of language that were normal then and seem questionable now. I'm old enough to remember when "squaw" was accepted as "the Indian word for woman," but all these decades later, it pulled me up short to here it in a story a teacher tells about how Indians learned to make maple syrup.

Still, this is a very gentle, positive, warm story about a family coming together.


I bought this audiobook.
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LibraryThing member kslade
Really nice childrens book about how good neighbors and New England help a family heal. It kind of compares to A Girl of the Limberlost. I wanted to read this because Virginia Sorensen was LDS and I'd read another book by her. This one also won the Newbery award.
LibraryThing member Turrean
Sweet as maple sugar. Reminds me a bit of Heidi--nature heals.
LibraryThing member juniperSun
While this book seems a bit dated if read as a current novel, there is no reason it can't be loved as historical fiction, albeit at a more recent date than the Little House series. First published in 1956, I'm sure the children then were thinking that the experiences of Marly and Joe were within
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the realm of possibility for themselves. And, while not labelled as PTSD, I think the father's difficulties after his return home from the Korean War may resonate with some current readers.
I was a bit bothered in the beginning with the sibling bickering which seems to be a standard theme in many books. Fortunately the siblings are shown to develop tolerance and appreciation for each other before the book's end.
A positive theme was the connection developed between each of the family members and their elderly neighbors.
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Other editions




½ (158 ratings; 3.8)
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