Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Year Money Grew On Trees, by Aaron Hawkins

When thirteen year-old Jackson is offered a chance to farm his neighbor's apple orchard, he can't believe his luck. Her offer (the deed to the orchard itself if he does well, plus the proceeds of the apples he sells minus $8000) seems generous. Jackson however knows nothing about apple farming and he quickly discovers it is a lot of work! But with the help of his sisters and his cousins, the kids find a way through their troubles. The resulting story of hard work, honesty, and learning to appreciate the fruit (!) of one's labor is appealing and heart warming.

One could certainly offer a few complaints that the kids are almost too good to be true (the Waltons do Johnny Appleseed) and the message of clean living can be a bit saccharine. A more significant literary criticism would be that Jackson starts off so mature and grown up that it doesn't seem like he has much room left to grow (so the dramatic arc is a bit stunted). Finally, you can lodge a reasonable complaint that all of their challenges and problems are a bit too easily resolved. But all that would be missing the joy of a story where you really are rooting for the kids. This is good clean fun (and maybe a bit too idyllic), but it is a satisfying story.

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