This was one of my favorite childhood books. I loved this book. I read it about 15 times. (Or thereabouts.) I bought the audio CD of this for my kids a few years ago, and now I have listened to it a few hundred times. We all love it.
Set in Pennsylvania, this winner of the 1957 Newbery follows ten year old Marley and her brother Joe as they get used to living on a long empty family farm in Western PA. Needing peace and quiet and something to do after being a prisoner of war in WWII, their father moves out to the farm, and Marley, Joe, and Mother commute between their city life and the farm each week. Mr. Chris, a neighbor who has known the family for years, promises to show Marley a miracle each weekend she comes to the farm. Slowly, her father comes back from the terrible emotional place he has been and Maple Hill becomes a precious place to the whole family. There is a lot of overcoming and joy and love in the book, as well as a lot of nature. Mr. Chris is always showing Marley or Joe a plant or tree or natural phenomena. Not to mention the sugaring. Oh, the sugaring! No wonder I adored this book!
I also love Beth and Joe Krush illustrations. They were a husband and wife team, quite popular in the 1940's and 50's, with several illustrated chapter books to their credit. They were both illustrators in their own right, but started helping each other meet deadlines. Eventually, they just worked as a team.
(Interesting wikipedia tidbit, Joe Krush was a court sketch artist at the Nuremberg trials.)
Marley and the farm.
Meeting Mr. Chris in the sugarbush
Mother showing Marley the view from her old room that would now be Marley's room.
In the Sugar Shack
Marley, lured into the cows pasture by some pretty flowers, is slightly concerned about the cows and their intentions.
Harry the Hermit and the family's first livestock.
Marley and her friend Margie
Collecting sap. Love this picture!
Having Mr. Chris test the maple syrup they had made without him.