Illustrations from Clara and Davie © 2014 by Patricia Polocco. Used with Permission from Scholastic Press.
“Clara and Davie,” by Patricia Polacco; Scholastic Press, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 4 to 6.
Before she earned her nickname “Angel of the Battlefield" from tending to wounded soldiers during the Civil War, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton (1821-1912) was a shy farmer’s daughter with a lisp, who was home-schooled because classmates teased her. This tale of inspiration and family strength comes straight from Barton’s own flesh and blood – Polacco is a relative, and as a child was told stories about her remarkable ancestor.
Growing up on a farm in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Barton was the youngest of five children. Clara was born on Christmas Day, but her mother died shortly thereafter. Polacco reveals this in such a way as not to frighten young children, yet still manages to poignantly convey the loss; “Mama grew weak from illness. Soon all of the mothering of that baby was left to [Clara’s older sister] Dolly.” Dolly was a stern guardian, but Clara’s great champion was her older brother Davie. He encouraged her to accept and cultivate her ability to heal others – eventually, farmers would travel from all over for her to cure their sick animals. Clara’s strength and courage are put to the test when Davie is gravely injured in a fall.
As mentioned above, Clara was home-schooled – each of her four older siblings was responsible for teaching her a different subject. She thrived in this homemade schoolhouse, and Polacco’s loving illustrations of the family reading in the parlor surrounded by filled bookshelves is a wonderful testament to the healing power of books.
Polacco’s trademark storytelling and charismatic illustrations will delight readers of all ages. Don’t wait until Women’s History Month to read this book – Barton’s rousing story is one to share year-round.
Publication Date: January 28, 2014