“’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free…”
Like the Willow Tree is one of the latest additions to the acclaimed Dear America series, a wonderful collection of historical fiction stories told by girls from different countries and eras. This story, narrated in diary-form by eleven year old Lydia Amelia Pierce, takes place in Maine in the year 1918, when Lydia abruptly finds her happy life turned upside down in one fell swoop. Having lost her parents and baby sister to the terrible influenza outbreak, she and her older brother Daniel are left without a place to call their own. Her life changes even more when the siblings are taken in by the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. The Shakers, who are deeply religious and value simple lives filled with hard work, are certainly kind to the children, but getting used to their strange customs is difficult for Lydia. Even the way that they speak is strange, and all property and possessions are shared amongst everyone within the community. Fortunately, though Lydia’s books and jewelry are taken from her, she is able to keep her diary to record the goings on of her new life.
Just as Lydia is starting to feel more comfortable with her surroundings, she is dismayed to find that her brother Daniel has run away from the settlement without a trace. Will Lydia ever see Daniel again? And will she ever truly be able to live the life of the Shaker order?
This historical novel is a fascinating look at the Shaker faith, and Lydia provides readers with lots of details and information. At the very end of her diary, author Lois Lowry has included factual research, including photographs, about the Shakers and the 1918 influenza epidemic. This will be an enjoyable way for readers to learn more about history and makes a wonderful addition to the Dear America series. 224 pages.
Recommended by Molly Crumbley, Librarian.