Worth by A. LaFaye (2004-06-01)

by A. LaFaye

Hardcover, no date

Call number

JF LAF

Collection

Publication

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (no date)

Description

After breaking his leg, eleven-year-old Nate feels useless because he cannot work on the family farm in nineteenth-century Nebraska, so when his father brings home an orphan boy to help with the chores, Nate feels even worse.

Media reviews

The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews
Laura Baker (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 17, No. 2)) When Nathaniel’s leg is crushed in a farm accident, his father brings home a boy from the Orphan Train to help with chores on their Nebraska farm. Nathaniel is resentful of the boy, John Worth, because he feels John is replacing him in his father’s eyes. John, a city boy from the streets of New York, feels out of place on the farm and struggles to find his way in a new environment. How the boys come to an understanding and a grudging appreciation of each other is the main thrust of this book. There have been many Orphan Train stories, but LaFaye’s is unique in that it is written not from the orphan’s perspective but from that of the family who takes in one of the children. Not all families treated the orphans as part of their household, often considering them barely more than indentured servants. The author weaves many historical and social facts into the story, such as the importance of education, the bitter range wars between the farmers and the ranchers, and the treatment of immigrants. Through it, the reader gets a rich sense of what that period of history was like. The author explores many relational themes as well. Nathaniel must come to terms with his impairment and John Worth’s presence. Nathaniel’s father, already guilty over earlier family tragedies, feels responsible for what happened to Nathaniel and struggles to express his feelings. Nathaniel’s mother is angry over John’s presence and tries to hold her family together. In the midst of it all is John Worth himself, young and alone and in a hostile environment. LaFaye realistically conveys the complex feelings of these multiple characters. The reader understands why they feel the way they do. The growing resolution, however, was a bit rocky and contrived. The mother, for instance, swung from expressions of sympathy for John Worth’s tragedy to acts of insensitivity by insisting he sleep in the woodshed and take his meals outside the house. The final scene also seemed too quickly resolved, perhaps due to space considerations. The historical and emotional themes provide much material for discussion. As a thought-provoking piece of historical fiction, this book is recommended. Fiction. Grades 4-7. 2004, Simon & Schuster, 144p., $15.95. Ages 9 to 13.
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Children's Literature)
Ann Philips (Children's Literature) In this riveting story of two boys' terrible losses, Nate's father brings home a city orphan, John Worth, to help on their Nebraska farm after Nate's leg is crushed in a haying accident. Nate lies in bed for months feeling useless as John takes his place working beside Dad. Then Nate is sent to school where he lags behind even the youngest pupils. LaFaye's splendid prose evokes the searing physical pain of Nate's leg injury and John's lonely grief over his family's death in a tenement fire. The novel incorporates important themes of 19th century rural America in believable and moving ways: the range wars pitting rancher against farmer; the community's ambivalence about the need for schooling; the uncertainties of lives in which family members die suddenly and bankrupt families abandon their homesteads; and the plight of foreign immigrants seeking tolerance. The family survives by repairing metal pans and tools, and it is versatile Ma who, contrary to convention, is the tinker. Nate's invigorating idiomatic language and lively metaphors firmly ground each character and the rural setting. "The thunder kept threatening like a big old empty cloud clearing its throat," Nate observes. After the two boys chase down fence-cutters who are plaguing the community, Nate realizes that he wants John to join the family permanently. Dad subdues his shame over Nate's injury and finally confirms the worth of both sons. An excellent addition to library collections and social studies curriculum. 2004, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12.

User reviews

LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Eleven-year-old Nathaniel has always known that his place is to be helping his father on their farm. One tragic day, a terrible accident leaves Nate with one debilitated leg and suddenly his whole life has changed. Now Nate must go to school and learn to read and do math while his father adopts an orphaned city boy to help on the farm. Nate's ma declares that she only has one son and she makes the orphan John Worth sleep outside in the lean-to. Nate hates the boy that's been brought to the farm to replace him. But the day will come that he will see that they have more in common than he ever thought possible. And maybe they will be able to help each other out.

A short, quick read, with interesting characters and set in an interesting time. The ranchers and farmers of Nebraska are at war with each other, fighting over land. Orphans from cities are shipped out to the country to be "adopted" to work on farms. I just wish that there had been an author's note to tell me how much of this was true and suggest some further reading.
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LibraryThing member avcr
After Nathaniel's leg is crushed in an accident on the farm, Nathaniel's Father brings home an orphan boy named John Worth to work the fields and take over Nathaniel's chores. While at first, jealously and misunderstandings ensue, the two boys slowly develop a frienship that bonds not only Nathaniel's family but the townspeople as well. A heartwarming introspective into the human condition with many educational nods toward the perceptions and understanding of others.… (more)
LibraryThing member saffron12
This is a well-written historical fiction book for juvenile readers. It was a nomination for the Rebecca Caudill Award in Illinois in 2007-2008, the winner chosen by students in grade 4 to 8. As an adult I read it when it first came out, and then again in 2007 when I led a book club discussion for kids mostly in the 4th grade. The kids seemed to like the book, though the kids seemed bored by the historical fiction aspects. I loved it, with the storm, Nathaniel's accident, and the orphan character. Since I was little, I loved all books with storms, accidents and orphans! So for me, and those who love those particular characteristics in books, I highly recommend this well-written story with a satisfying ending.… (more)
LibraryThing member KarriesKorner
Sometimes in the face of adversity and conflict with someone, a true friendship can develop and thrive.
LibraryThing member Darleen04
Interesting book a good fast read.
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