Down Down the Mountain

“Never in their lives had Hetty or Hank had a pair of shoes . . . They each wanted a beautiful shining pair that sang, ‘Creaky–squeaky–creaky–squeaky,’ every time they walked.” 

It’s fun going barefoot in the summer, but in the winter snow, their feet get blue with cold. When they ask their mammy for shoes, she tells them the kind of shoes they want can’t be found in the hills where they live. Pappy says there isn’t a cent of money in the household. 

Granny tells them to plant turnips and trade them in town for shoes. And they do. They plant and wait, chop weeds, chase away pests, and carry water in buckets. The turnips grow beautiful and big. 

One day, the children ride the old gray horse down the hill to town to trade turnips for shoes. Along the way, they share their turnips with the people they meet.

They don’t realize how many they have given away until they arrive in town with only one fat turnip. We know they are going to get their shoes, but how will it happen? 

The prose text, with a feel of song and poetry, makes for a fun and memorable read-aloud. There are shining, creaky, squeaky shoes, the calls of birds, and the song the children sing as they work. To help the children find their way to town, Granny tells them, “Just you keep to the road and it will lead you down. Sometimes it’s steep–just like a stair. Sometimes it’s narrow–like a hair. It turns and twists and winds around, but at the end you’ll find the town!” 

A way of life foreign to most of us springs out of the drawings. It seems that all the farm work must be done while straining uphill. Many of the illustrations are history lessons in themselves. One shows kettles of cooking food hanging over the fire in the stone fireplace, which is all there is of a kitchen in the family’s log cabin. We see Mammy washing clothes in buckets by the creek. The children meet a woman who is making soap in a kettle over an open fire. A train runs past the town, but horses and wagons are the only transportation for the people in the town. 

An entire lesson could be built around the fact that Hank and Hetty are able to buy two pairs of shoes, and gifts for Mammy, Pappy, and Granny, all with five dollars!  

This is a lovely story of a simpler life where children are able to rejoice in owning shoes. 

You may buy this book at Purple House Press.

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