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The End of August Review by Krystin CorneilsonJoyce Furrow Thompson
Robin Thompson Charm School
17298 Lake Knolls Road
Pekin, IL 61554
For me, making history come to life is the key to making it memorable. The End of August is told mostly in the voice of Anna, a ninety-six year old woman, whose final days are filled with reliving favorite and not-so-favorite memories from her life at the turn of the twentieth century. Written almost like a diary, The End of August offers a history lesson with vivid images and unforgettable lessons.
The book opens with Anna in a chicken coop playing with soft and fluffy baby chicks. She is secretive about it because she doesn't want her husband and children, who are working out in the fields, to see her softer side. We're soon whisked into the world of farm life and its hard lessons and simple pleasures. From birthing babies to surviving a monster ice storm to delighting in the first signs of spring, Anna's account of life in rural Illinois is familiar and satisfying to those of us who grew up on Little House books.
We're with Anna as she cans her bountiful harvest and when she and her husband Fred see an airplane for the first time as it flies over their farm. We learn about threshing, doctors' house calls, "tramps" in the barn, and the dreaded word "QUARANTINE." Food was prepared from scratch, travel was mostly by horse and buggy, and at summer's end feather beds were shaken and set in the sun to prepare for winter use. There were horses to tame, church and social events to attend, and roads to build. Other highlights included saving the mare stuck in the cesspool, the solar eclipse, saving the crops from army ants, and the first availability of electricity. Occasionally, the reader is offered insight from Emma, Anna's daughter, who admires the strength and virility of her mother. She shares a few memories with Anna, and the closeness of their relationship is apparent.
The End of August is appropriate for middle school-aged kids and up. It could be used as part of history or language arts. The lessons in faith would make a good study as well. I enjoyed it as a casual read.
Pros: Our lives are so far removed from the circumstances and simplicity of the early 1900s that reliving the lessons and witnessing the characters is worthy for all. The chapters are mostly just a few pages each and make for easy reading.
Cons: Some of the writing is choppy and the flow is bumpy, especially and unfortunately at the beginning and the very end. I also felt a little lost at some of the transitions between the present and past.
The bottom line is that I would recommend this book to anyone fascinated with history or biographies. The colorful and sometimes blunt descriptions and the varied recollections of events are interesting and memorable--the best compliment of all.