November – “Ox-Cart Man”

As I drove home tonight and looked at the sky, I immediately knew it was an “Ox-Cart Man” sky, the one in November where he finally arrived back home.  Do you know “Ox-Cart Man” by Donald Hall?

It is one of the first really good books I discovered when I started teaching.  It tells the story of a New England farmer and his family, over the course of a year.  Children learn about the work on a farm in each season, from spring to the following spring.  They pick apples and geese feathers, boil the sap from maple trees to make maple syrup, knit mittens from the wool of sheep, make shingles and candles, and more.  There is much that happens in order for the ox-cart man to make his journey to Portsmouth.

He begins in October

It takes him ten days to walk.  Ten days!  He is in Portsmouth Market to sell what he grew, made, and raised over the year, including selling his ox and the cart.  Kissing his ox goodbye is a favorite for children.

He returns in November

This is my favorite part of the book, as children see the vast difference between October and November.  I flip back and forth between the illustrations.  We spend time to talk about the journey and what he sold.  We reflect on what he made and grew.  It was hard work.

And what did he get in return?  A broom for his wife, a knife for his son, and a needle for his daughter.  Oh, peppermint candy, too.

The illustrations are simple and perfect.  The text flows, holding the reader to the story – the entire year on the farm.  I did not know that “Ox-Cart Man” is actually a poem.  I learned that when I read “The Poet’s Dog” by Patricia MacLachlan.

I read this story every year to children, in November.  It is one book that never looses its appeal, never gets forgotten regardless of the many new books that have since been published.  Yes, it is a classic.  I will be reading the book tomorrow at school.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Book Review, children's books, Early Education, history, Particia MacLachlan, picture books, Poetry, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to November – “Ox-Cart Man”

  1. beth says:

    oh, i haven’t thought of this book in years, i’m going to find it again –

  2. Darlene says:

    Many children live in the city or on an acreage which isn´t a working farm so it is good for them to know the life of a farmer. An excellent book to read to the children just before your Thanksgiving.

  3. beetleypete says:

    That sounds great, but why did he sell the ox? I wanted him to keep the ox. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. I wish I could be there to hear you read the story.

  5. Donald Hall is a wonderful poet/writer.

  6. I remember the book, or a similar one. Is it possible it got translated in other languages, in the past? The way of teaching is as classic as this book itself.I hope you have had stocked up peppermint candies in real.Lol Thank you for introducing, Jennie! Have a beautiful weeend! Michael

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Michael! Since it is a classic, it may have been translated into other languages. Yes, it is a great teaching book as well as a terrific story. That peppermint candy had to last them for the entire year! Have a wonderful wonderful weekend!

  7. Opher says:

    I’m not familiar with that one Jennie.

  8. This is such a classic Jennie! I used to read it my library story times every fall.

  9. quiall says:

    I did not know of this book until now! Great lessons.

  10. Classic books are so important to share with children. Reading those books that share the life and experiences of the past as well as the classic style of writing. Children need exposure to so much variety and be allowed to appreciate the changes in styles and life.

  11. Ritu says:

    This sounds like a wonderful book, Jennie!

  12. Somehow this book reminded me of another one that I also loved. If I could only remember the title – about a man whose mother was a pirate. Oh, that’s the title: The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy. I guess it was the traveling and sequencing of events that reminded me. Children love this kind of book. (So do their teachers.)

  13. I had not heard of this book. I LOVE the artwork! It’s americana- my favorite! I will have to add this to an ever-growing book list!

    • Jennie says:

      Oh, Deborah! I’m so glad I posted this. It’s one of the best books, from the storyline to the words and the artwork. It won the Caldecott, which tells you how good the illustrations are. Barbara Cooney, the illustrator, lived in the next town over when we first moved here. Do you know “Miss Rumphius”? That’s one of her books. I can’t express enough how wonderful her book “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” is. Americana, and better than “The Polar Express.” Yes!! You will cry.

  14. I missed this one, Jennie. Sounds terrific.

  15. petespringerauthor says:

    95% of the books you share, I’ve read to students or at least am familiar with, but you stumped me with this one, Jennie. I’ve never seen it before. It looks like it’s got the Caldecott award seal on it.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad I posted this, Pete. There I was, driving along, looking at the evening sky and immediately knowing it was from Ox Cart Man. I assumed most people knew this classic (never assume) yet many bloggers have said what you said. So, I apologize for that.

      Yes, it was a Caldecott winner. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations are wonderful. Do you know “Miss Rumphius”? One of her best books, which is my favorite Christmas book, is “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.” I think it is better than “The Polar Express.”

      “Ox Cart Man” could have won the Newbery as well. The text flows across the seasons and the life of this farmer. I really, REALLY hope you read this book when your library opens.

      • petespringerauthor says:

        I do know Miss Rumphius. I promise that I will give Ox Cart Man a close look. Hopefully, you remember the old EF Hutton commercials when I say this and you’ll understand the reference, When Jennie talks, people listen.” Have a great weekend, teacher Jennie!

      • Jennie says:

        I do remember that commercial, and I dearly appreciate the reference. Thank you, Pete. Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃

  16. What a wonderful story. I’d love to read it one day if our library ever opens again.

  17. My students loved that book!

  18. Tammy Hutchinson says:

    I have loved OxCart Man forever, and so have my students. I read it every year, and no matter whether I was teaching kindergarten, third grade or fifth grade it supported ‘the curriculum’ and the students loved it. I saw one comment mention that you might read it aloud – how would I access that?

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad to hear your students loved the book, too. Besides being a great story, it really does support the curriculum. I just posted reading the book aloud this morning. 🙂

  19. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for the reminder of this book!

  20. Norah says:

    I don’t know the book, Jennie. It sounds perfect for discussing the seasons, as you describe. The seasons are very different for children here.

  21. This sounds great, Jennie. It reminds me of Little House in the Big Woods with the various seasons and Pa’s and Ma’s preparations for winter and spring cleaning.

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