Eva of the Farm by Dia Calhoun
Current Mood: sleepy
Current Song: On a Sunday by Jimmy Eat World
The verse novel Eva of the Farm by Dia Calhoun is told from the point of view of Eva, a 12-year-old girl who finds herself in words and poetry. Though she loves her mother, father, and baby brother, she often seeks solitude in her favorite places on the farm. When she learns that her family is in danger of losing the farm - their home, their livelihood, her whole world - she becomes determined to find a way to save it. She begins to sell her poems for a dollar a piece at the local farmer's market, which leads to a part-time job with a local craftswoman. This kindly mentor figure encourages Eva to value her imagination as well as love, hope, and joy; she calls these four concepts/elements "the Greater Powers."
Set in modern-day Washington State, this story is a beautiful testament to family, environment, creativity, and hope. It has the innocence and hope of Pollyanna with just enough modernity to keep contemporary kids interested. Anyone who has potentially had to move away from the home they loved will relate to Eva's plight. The protagonist's love for poetry and the verse novel style will automatically attract young poets. The book is written in non-rhyming verse, with Eva's poems sprinkled throughout, and it all flows very naturally. Eva's emotions are captured very well in the poems she writes, especially when she's frustrated or feeling particularly imaginative. When things don't go right - when another notice comes in from the bank, when Eva learns what "foreclosure" means, when someone close to her falls ill - she reacts realistically and, in angry moments, says or does things she may regret later. But she doesn't give up. She won't give up.
As someone who thinks hope is precious and necessary, and as someone who is determined as all get-out, I really enjoyed Eva's story, and her voice. I also loved that she had her sanctuaries, her special writing places, and that she learned to express herself in different ways, artistically and otherwise. I also liked how much time she spent outside. She clearly enjoyed and appreciated the natural beauty of the land and the sights and sounds of her home.
The book follows Eva through an entire year, breaking the book into sections for spring first, then summer, fall, winter, and the following spring. Each season section begins with a lovely black-and-white illustration by Kate Slater, who also designed the full-color book cover. See the 3D papercut illustrations at Kate's website. Crafty parents, teachers, and librarians would be wise to make this a class/group book club pick with a bonus arts-and-crafts activities: write your own poem, create your own vision board, and/or make collages and papercut illustrations.
The book's opening sets the scene and introduces the character so well:
On top of the hill,
I lean against the deer fence
and write a poem in the sky.
My fingertip traces each word
on the sunlit blue-
the sky will hold the words for me
until I get the chance to write them down.
Other notable passages in the book include:
...I think a sheet of paper-
is too small
for all that is inside me.
- Page 95
I look up at the sky
but no poem comes,
no comfort comes.
listening to the trees
until my tears stop-
quietly listening to the trees
until the branches reach down
and give me a poem.
- Page 148
When readying for the move:
I gather the magic,
storing it inside me,
so I can make wherever we go next
How much magic is in the place,
and how much is in what you bring
to the place?
- Page 216
In July 2013, make sure you pick up After the River the Sun by Dia Calhoun, which is a companion story to Eva of the Farm. You just might see a familiar face...and some familiar silver boots! I will post my full-length review of that book later this summer. In the meantime, read the piece of After the River the Sun I posted for Poetry Friday.
For even more talk of poetry and prose, check out my Verse Novels Booklist!