In Book Reviews, Curriculum Reviews

Book Review: Ox-Cart Man

Written by Donald Hall

Pictures by Barbara Cooney

This is a story about a family in New England in early nineteenth century.  Everyone in the family contributes to the family’s welfare by making something for the Ox-Cart Man to  take to the distant Portsmouth Market. It takes the Ox-Cart Man ten whole days of walking to get their goods to the market to sell.

After the Ox-Cart man sells everything, he buys more tools so that the family can start over without borrowing tools. Then, the story takes the reader through the seasons to show what the family does each season to get ready for the next trip to market. Even the children help out by making brooms with a Barlow knife, embroidering linen, making candles, knitting mittens, tapping maple trees, and more.

Ox-Cart Man Review

So far, I’ve read this book to four of my kids when they entered Kindergarten as part of my curriculum. They are quick to understand that the children from “back then” worked very hard to help the family to read survive, that there is little time for play, and very few opportunities to eat candy. My kids usually ask why kids work as hard as the children did in Ox-Cart Man and why they did not get much candy.

The book is pretty easy to comprehend. Each child has been able to remember the story well enough to summarize the story in their own words. I want them to explain it pretty thoroughly, so I let them flip through the pages as they share the story.

Ox-Cart Man Awards

Another reason to read this book is that it is an award winner. Most award winning books make great books to read for fun or as part of your home school curriculum. The Ox-Cart Man was selected as New York Times Book Review as one of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 1979 and winner of the 1980 Caldecott Medal.

The illustrations, by Barbara Cooney create the look and feel of the time period in which it took place. Barabra Cooney’s painting technique resembles American painting on wood for the time period.

Donald Hall poetry makes the grade for this book. Kids find it enjoyable to listen to, which makes it easy for them to remember.

Where to Buy Ox-Cart Man

While there may be many places to get your own copy of Ox-Cart Man, I checked at a few of my favorite sites to see if they still sold the book. I found Ox-Cart Man at Learning Things (a school and home school curriculum site) as well as (a site that carries items such as electronics, books, groceries, and more).

At Learning Things, Ox-Cart Man is sold separately or as part of a series of Challenge Trade Books for first graders, a program designed to develop advanced reading, thinking and writing skills. When this book is purchased from Learning Things, you’ll find that it is bound with Saddle Wire Binding, which allows the book to lie flat while it is read. If you want to buy this separately, this specially bound book was sold for $9.50 at the time I published this post. If you prefer to buy it included in the Storytown Challenge Books First Grade set of 16 books, the price is $152.50.

At, Ox-Cart Man is eligible for free budget shipping when purchased $40 worth of items are bought at the same time. I find it really easy to spend $40 at because their inventory is extensive. You can buy from their affiliate, and apply the discounted groceries toward the $40 needed to get free shipping. Otherwise, the cost is $5.99 + $2.90 SHIPPING at the time I wrote this post.

I hope you and your children enjoy The Ox Cart Man as much as our family does. I look forward to reading your comments about Donald Hall, Barbara Cooney, as well as the book in general. Please share this post with your friends so they can enjoy reading this book with the children in their lives, too.


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