My two children and I enjoyed a number of evenings recently with Salamonie Farm, by Noah Hershberger, as our bedtime reading. It is a fictionalized account of a year in the life of a six-year-old boy and his Amish family in Ohio the 1950s.
The book carries its Amish themes with a perfect understatement. It had never occurred to me that, when one lives without electricity, ice cream must be a winter treat. By the time the boy visits a non-Amish neighbor couple in their kitchen, the reader shares the boy's interest in the refrigerator.
Somewhat from the same literature as the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Salamonie Farm gently teaches about life on a farm and in a pious religious community, but also more roughly teaches about sibling rivalry, fear of strangers, bullying, and the hard economics of manual labor, including child labor.
I promised earlier to tell you about my five-year-old daughter's questions about vegetarianism. She has been hitting us with a patient steady inquisition for weeks now. In one chapter of Salamonie Farm, the family cooperates with neighbors to slaughter a hog and a cow. My kids were especially interested, because they had recently seen for themselves how sausages were made. The moral of the chapter was supposed to be that the wise father's respectful but practical attitude towards the slaughter compares favorably to that of a couple of neighbor boys, who mistreat animals. But my daughter wasn't buying it. Didn't the Dad laugh, she asked, when one of the workers pinned the pig's tail on another. It didn't seem to my daughter to meet the Dad's own standards of respectfulness.
In just partly related news, our family is giving up meat for lent. We will eat eggs and dairy products, and I think my son will still eat meat with his school lunch. I'll let you know how it goes. Today is Ash Wednesday in several Christian traditions.