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The yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The yearling (original 1938; edition 1938)

by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Edward Shenton

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2,420402,564 (4)157
Title:The yearling
Authors:Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Other authors:Edward Shenton
Info:New York, Scribner, 1938.
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:fiction, classic, hardcover, unread, GRTB

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The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1938)

  1. 00
    The Sundowners by Jon Cleary (BonnieJune54)
    BonnieJune54: Both novels have boys coming of age in a vividly described rural setting of another era. In both cases Mom, Dad and son are somewhat isolated from others. While life is harsh, joy , love and laughter are present.

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While straightening out my shelves, I came across a book I read when I was in about 7th grade. Thanks to Sister Stella Marie, who alone encouraged me to read books I enjoyed even if they verged on adult titles. The book I recently pulled from the shelf was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The dust jacket is long gone, and it has several stains on the cover, but I immediately became overcome with memories and emotions from those days.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was born August 8, 1896 in Washington, D.C. She lived in rural Florida and wrote of rural themes and settings. Her most beloved novel was The Yearling. She lived in numerous places around the country working as a journalist. By 1928, they settled in rural Florida after buying a 72-acre farm in Frontier Florida in the Ocala National Forest, southeast of Gainesville. The Rawlings Society quoted Marjorie, when she described the wilds of her new home. She wrote, "This was not the Gold coast of Florida. It was a primitive section off the beaten path, where men hunted and fished and worked small groves and farms for a meager living. And the country was beautiful, with its mysterious swamps, its palms, its great live oaks, dripping gray Spanish moss, its deer and bear and raccoons and panthers and reptiles." Marjorie died December 14, 1953 in St. Augustine, Florida.

Back in 7th grade, I never knew any of this, as I sat immersed in the delightful story of Jody, his father Penny, and Ma Baxter as they desperately tried to scratch out a meager existence. They competed for food and a safe place to raise offspring with raccoons, foxes, bears, deer, wolves, coyotes, rattle snakes, and the Florida panther, which was one of the first species added to the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1973. Today, there are less than 100 Florida panthers left in the wild.

I noticed two curious things about the book I so loved then – which may have been the first novel I read twice. First, is the dialect spoken by the settlers in the early 19th century. Although a bit strange at first, I quickly adapted to the local tongue; however, this time I had a dictionary of American Slang close to hand all the while I read. The second was the wonderfully astute cracker barrel philosophy of Penny.

Rawlings wrote, “Jody’s mother had accepted her youngest with something of detachment, as though she had given all she had of love and care and interest to those other [children she lost]. But Penny’s bowels yearned over his son. He gave him something more than his paternity. He found that the child stood wide-eyed and breathless before the miracle of bird and creature, of flower and tree, of wind and rain, and sun and moon, as he had always stood. And if, on a soft day in April, the boy had prowled away on his boy’s business, he could understand the thing that had drawn him. He understood, too, its briefness. // His wife’s bulk stirred and she made a sound in her sleep. He would act on any such occasion, he knew, as a bulwark for the boy against the mother’s sharpness. The whip-poor-will flew farther into the forest and took up his lament again, sweet with distance. The moonlight moved beyond the focus of the bedroom window. // ‘Leave him kick up his heels,’ he thought, ‘and run away. Leave him build his flutter-mills. The day’ll come, he’ll not even care to’” (20-21).

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling has withstood the hurricane of time for me. I found it as warm, sad, joyous, and heart-breaking as I did back in the late ‘50s. If you have never read it, or if you have, travel back in time and relive your own childhood innocence and wonder at the beauty of nature. 5 stars

--Jim, 7/30/15 ( )
  rmckeown | Aug 7, 2015 |
I never read this when I was a child. Much too long. I finally read it as a young mom and remember being moved by the language, but not by the tear-jerking story. I need to read it again... someday.... ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Every night for three weeks, my nine-year-old and I would snuggle together under a blanket, tea cups balanced on our laps. I would read aloud in what my spouse says was a pretty good Southern accent and she would read along silently over my shoulder.

After we'd finished the book and blown our noses and she'd talked a bit, I realized that she and I got different messages from the story. She loved it for the outdoors and the animals---both the cute baby animals raised by Fodder-Wing and Jody and the animals who threatened to kill them, directly or indirectly. When she cried, she cried because there was no clear right path for Jody to have followed. Should he have taken the fawn in or should he have left it? Neither seemed like a good plan in the end.

When I cried, I cried because as a parent, there's no clear right path for raising my children. Penny, like many (most?) parents, tried to protect his son from the ills of his own childhood. He kept Jody from hard work and hunger, shielding him always from the ugly ways of people, a buffer between his son and reality. This spared Jody pain when he was young, but it left him unprepared for the life of an adult. The boy couldn't read or write well or light a fire on his own or carry home a carcass after a hunt. Adulthood comes, though, whether we're prepared for it or not. And so when I cried, it was in part for that remembered pain of crossing the threshold between childhood and adulthood and realizing there really was no magic to it after all, but it was even more for the constant and anticipated pain of knowing that no matter what I do for my children, they're going to have to suffer in order to grow. I can't get them out of that any more than I can get myself out of my own growing pains.

Even if I could keep them from feeling pain or sadness or fear as children, that would only leave them as adults with a sense of entitlement toward anything good in their lives and a sense of unfairness for any discomfort. They'd be as whiny as Jody was before his coming-of-age except they'd be trapped in it, perpetual children.

My take-home message from this book is that the way to help my children grow to be capable adults is to get them a wild animal to raise so it can betray them and so open their eyes to the betrayals they can expect from life every step of the way. Or since I live in the suburbs, maybe I can accomplish something similar by allowing them to make their own mistakes and feel their own embarrassment and fear and pain and just be there for them when it happens instead of trying to keep them from feeling it in the first place.

I think getting a fawn might be easier. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Mar 26, 2015 |
What ages would I recommend it too? – Twelve and up.

Length? – Several days read.

Characters? – Memorable, several characters.

Setting? – Florida early 1900's?

Written approximately? – 1938.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? – Yes. There were a few inconsistencies.

Any issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? Yes. As people move further from the time this novel is written about, several words don't make sense, and many children readers today would not understand how he could not have to go to school, or a few of the other unique things in this story.

Notes for the reader: It was really odd, reading a story in which both males are called by female names. Penny and Jody as male, just pulls you right out of the story. And the one main female was a bit cardboard, hardly developed at all. She was not friendly either.

The character Jody is said to be 12. He acts more like an 8 year old of that time. ( )
  AprilBrown | Feb 25, 2015 |
  mrsforrest | Nov 1, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wyeth, N.C.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A column of smoke rose thin and straight from the cabin chimney. The smoke was blue where it left the red of the clay. It trailed into the blue of the April sky and was no longer blue but gray. The boy Jody watched it, speculating. The fire on the kitchen hearth was dying down. His mother was hanging up pots and pans after the noon dinner. The day was Friday. She would sweep the floor with a broom of ti-ti and after that, if he were lucky, she would scrub it with the corn shucks scrub. If she scrubbed the floor she would not miss him until he had reached the Glen. He stood a minute, balancing the hoe on his shoulder.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0020449313, Paperback)

Fighting off a pack of starving wolves, wrestling alligators in the swamp, romping with bear cubs, drawing off the venom of a giant rattlesnake bite with the heart of a fresh-killed deer--it's all in a day's work for the Baxter family of the Florida scrublands. But young Jody Baxter is not content with these electrifying escapades, or even with the cozy comfort of home with Pa and Ma. He wants a pet, a friend with whom he can share his quiet cogitations and his corn pone. Jody gets his pet, a frisky fawn he calls Flag, but that's not all. With Flag comes a year of life lessons, frolicking times, and achingly hard decisions. This powerful book is as compelling now as when it was written over 60 years ago. Read simply as a naturalist study of the Florida interior, it fascinates and entices. Add the heart-stopping adventure and heart-wrenching human elements, and this is a classic well worth its Pulitzer Prize. Earthy dialect and homespun wisdom season the story, giving it a unique and unforgettable flavor, and N.C. Wyeth's warm, soft illustrations capture an era of rough subsistence and sweet survival. (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:52 -0400)

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A young boy living in the Florida backwoods is forced to decide the fate of a fawn he has lovingly raised as a pet.

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