Written by Sharon Creech

Publisher’s Summary:
When Reena, her little brother, Luke, and their parents first move to Maine, Reena doesn’t know what to expect. She’s ready for beaches, blueberries, and all the lobster she can eat. Instead, her parents “volunteer” Reena and Luke to work for an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala, who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna–and that stubborn cow, Zora.

Primary Source Pairing:
The setting of this book, including both the state of Maine and Mrs. Falala’s house and farm, are so important to the story it is as if they are characters themselves. Reena and her family move from New York City to rural Maine. The difference between NYC and a northern Maine harbor town is vast – the sounds, the smells, the freedom. For this primary source pairing, invite students to take a close look at a farmhouse in Maine as photographed by Carol M. Highsmith from her collection of photographs of America available at the Library of Congress.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • Make connections to the description of Mrs. Falala’s house and farm in the book and what you see in this image. How are they similar? How are they different?
  • How and why is the setting an important part of this story? How would the story be different if the setting was elsewhere?
  • Compare and contrast the setting of this book to where you live. How are they similar? How are they different?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Tractor, flowers, and farmhouse near Brunswick, Maine: Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress