Book Review: Dandelions

Rating: ★★★★★

Zoe, traveling with her family to Nebraska, knows her mother has doubts about moving to an unsettled territory, but her father is unable to provide for them back in Illinois where they lived with her grandparents.  When they arrive at their staked-out territory and commence to digging a well and building their sod house, Mama’s doubts continue to weigh on her and she pines for her old home.  On Mama’s birthday Papa takes Zoe to town for supplies and a small gift.  As they leave the town, Zoe spies a clump of dandelions to be her gift.  They carefully transplant them to the sod roof, but when morning comes the flowers are wilted and sad.  Zoe pleads, “They’ll bloom, Mama — they’re strong, just like us.”  Mama is quiet, and Zoe knows that somehow the conversation is about more than the flowers.  Mama tells her she must be patient, it’s hard for flowers to be transplanted, and the story ends with a visual scene of a little sod house on an open prairie, roof covered in yellow blooms.

This beautiful story captures the courage of Americans who risked everything to settle in unknown lands.  It features a strong female protagonist who supports her father’s leadership and shows genuine love toward her mother and sister.  In a book of this length much is necessarily left out — you will have to read On the Banks of Plum Creek or Sod Houses on the Great Plains to learn how a soddie is built — but Bunting’s spare text gives just enough detail to evoke the feelings these settlers must have experienced, leaving the reader with the desire to learn more about this piece of American history.

The complex emotional themes of hope, loneliness and fear, with the symbolism of transplanted flowers to stand for Mama’s loneliness, may require explanation for younger readers.  This book is probably best suited for ages 5-8.

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Publication Information: Bunting, Eve. Dandelions. Shed, Greg (Illustrator). Sandpiper. 2001. ISBN: 0152024077.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 04-08, Books Children Love
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Posted on May 9, 2010

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