In tone and texture, Willard harks back to The Farm Summer 1942, also illustrated by Moser. The most autobiographical of Hall's works for children, the book evokes another summer overshadowed by war. That year, the 14-year-old Hall worked alongside his grandfather in the fields. It is a season recounted with deep affection in Farm Summer; Hall's memories are recast as the experiences of Peter, a 9-year-old boy who arrives to spend the summer with his grandparents.
Even on cloudless afternoons, perfect for haying, the dark nimbus of war hangs in the air. Each night, the "big radio near the wood stove" carries news of "air raids in Europe and fighting in New Guinea." And each night, Peter sleeps in the silent farmhouse, a boy secure under layers of quilts, intuiting that safety is, after all, hard won. The children who come to Donald Hall's books will recover not only portions of America's past but of every family's individual histories and heart.
Many of this year's children's titles make time travelers of us all, offering passage to a 19th-century fishing village in England; the Ithaca of Homer's Odyssey; a Mississippi hamlet on the eve of the civil rights movement; Elizabeth Cady Stanton's hometown of Tenafly, New Jersey, in 1880.