Front Porch Stories At The One Room School

Written By Eleanora E. Tate

Twelve-year-old Margie Carson loves hearing stories. And her daddy loves to tell them. One hot summer night Daddy, Margie, and her seven-year-old cousin Ethel troop over to the old one-room school for round of special storytelling. Daddy tells the girls about the time Aunt Daisy was chased by a scary, eight-foot-tall shadow one Sunday night in her backyard...about the flood that nearly washed away the whole town and left a catfish on a neighbor's pillow...stories about rocks that bite and walnut wars...stories about Mary McLeod Bethune and the time Eleanor Roosevelt came to town...ten wonderful stories in all.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12; Paperback: 97 Pages



A hot summer night in the tiny town of Nutbrush, Mo., proves "duller than dirt" for 12-year-old Maggie Carson--until her father starts to regale her with stories of his childhood. These tales, centered in the one-room schoolhouse for the town's black children, comprise the 10 stories in this collection based on Tate's own childhood. The loosely connected episodes, which range from village ghost stories to an account of a local flood, lack the overall narrative development and the fully fleshed-out characters necessary to support a whole book. Although Tate's (Just an Overnight Guest) evocative language conjures up rural southern life, her book is further flawed by somewhat heavy-handed exposition and stilted dialogue that at times borders on the saccharine. Because of Tate's framing device--readers see Maggie sit on the schoolhouse porch as she listens to her father--the tales lack a certain immediacy. The text also contains an important, but rather pedantically delivered, message about segregation in America. Publishers Weekly

It's a steamy night, and Margie is so bored that she is letting mosquitos bite her, and she can hardly summon up the energy to give a good scare to her cousin Ethel, who lives with the family. This changes when her father decides to burn some rags over on the porch of the old one-room schoolhouse. The smoke will drive away the mosquitos, and the porch is the perfect place for him to tell stories. It's the end of boredom for both Margie and Ethel, as they hear about the ghost that threatened Aunt Daisy, about how Eleanor Roosevelt visited town and nearly ran Daddy down, and about the time a possum got into the school. Along with these stories, the girls (and readers) learn about how it was to be black in northern Missouri in the years shortly before integration was legislated. Tate's characterizations and setting are convincing. One can almost hear the father's voice and smell the burning rags. The stories read aloud well, and some would even tell well. Additionally, information about black culture and pride is imparted. This is a great choice for use with social studies units that touch on the Civil War, Reconstruction, or race relations. Gentle, funny, and poignant in turn, this evocative book will gain satisfied readers and listeners. School Library Journal

Some of the lively characters in Just an Overnight Guest (1980) return in this celebration of storytelling and small-town life. Matthew J. Cornelius Carson falls into the mood one night, and his daughter Margie and niece Ethel sit entranced for hours, listening to his tales--about the giant shadow that chased Aunt Daisy the time she dared to do wash on Sunday; about laughing and working together at the old one-room Douglass School; about the time Great-Grandpa Wally came back from the grave, or the unforgettable day Eleanor Roosevelt came through town. Linking these incidents into a single, seamless narrative, Tate notes that all of them are based, at least loosely, on her own memories of growing up in Canton, Missouri. Like Margie and Ethel, readers may be moved to find comparable stories in their own lives. Kirkus Reviews


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