Calico Bush, by Rachel Field

When Marguerite Ledoux is orphaned upon arriving in America in 1743, she has no choice but to become a ‘bound out’ girl. Bound out girls are contracted for a specified amount of time to a family, to serve wherever they are and whatever the circumstances. Six years is a long time to not have a say in your own life choices. At least she has a place to sleep, and food to eat.

The Sargent’s are kind enough, but their plans to settle in rural, unsettled Maine were not exactly what Maggie bargained for. Through harsh weather, Indian raids, and accidents that never end, Maggie struggles to feel at home in a land whose story is just beginning.

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Many mixed reviews on this book from various people have me confused. I can’t make up my mind. Several aspects of this story I liked. And several parts of each aspect I like, but I definitely didn’t like every bit of it.

The plot was only okay. If you don’t like historical fiction, this book does not cater to every taste. If you are interested in pioneers, then this is a good one. I have read my fair share of pioneer/settler type books and this one falls in with the rest in the same way: it portrays life back then, but the plot and characters are not as strong because it is not meant to tell a thrilling story, but more to teach and make a point.

There were several characters I liked: the endearing Aunt Hepsa was the best, but the rest don’t have a lot of originality. Only some are described, and all the children are lumped together as, well, ‘the children’. Maggie is alright, and her character was carefully thought out. Her courage and feeling towards the people who didn’t expect it from her is fresh.

As with other historical books of any kind, the Indians were never given any kind of understanding. In a lot of books, they always mention that some are friendly, and some are hostile. Apparently, only the hostile kind live in Maine. Yet the Sargent’s, in their prejudice never gave any thought to them other than ‘bar the door, the Injun’s are coming!’

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Violence: 3.5/10 (like I mentioned, lots of accidents that may make you wince do occur, along with a creepy incident in which Maggie runs into the murder site of some settlers who have been scalped. The body’s are never actually seen)

Language: 0/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: Ages 10-14, 8 and up with parental guidance (only the one creepy part gives me pause)

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