In some ways, this book reminded me of 'The Little House on the Prairie', but it had its merits beyond such books. Marly and Joe were given brilliant characterisations as they fought and grizzled just as children do today. We all laughed along the way as the characters sounded like one sibling or another in our house. Marly and Joe both had strengths of character that we were able to talk about and character references around. I also enjoyed the fact that the adults were not conceived as perfect either. The father had his issues obtained from the war; mother tried to keep things together for the family; the hermit was far from clean, yet the family learnt to look past this to his character and needs, and Mr Chris, who was the strength of the book has a heart attack.
As the book goes from climax to climax, the characters developed bonds that strengthened a community. Miracle after miracle connects each season to the lives of the families. We had a discussion on the climax and decided there were three. Having more than one climax kept interest in a story that would have easily become predictable.
The biggest strength of this book was the imagery. Every season had its beauty, and the author showed this with words that impressed us all as I read aloud. There were several parts of the book that I had to repeat because the wording was rich in detail. Perhaps this is because the book was classic first published in 1956. Whether it is due to the period of its publishing or not the author was brilliant in her 'showing' of the Maple Hill's beauty.
Overall this book is beautiful. The characters, wording and vocabulary, and the story are all gentle and beautiful.
If you want to use this book as a study resource for classrooms you can get study notes from Centre For Lit at http://www.centerforlit.com/literature-curriculum/ There is a small charge, but they are well worth the value.
If your floating around the net check out my blog over at http://readlearnandshine.blogspot.co.nz/