I said this blog post would take us back to 1996, but actually it’s a 1996 book that takes us back to 1855. Jip is a novel by two-time Newbery winner Katherine Paterson set on a poor farm in small town Vermont. It was a great read-aloud for my daughter and I, and she insists I review for all you good folk. In the past we read Patterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, an amazing short novel that can make a tough hombre like me cry.
The story is about a boy who’s come to be known as Jip who fell out of a speeding wagon when he was a little tyke and has lived on the poor farm for the eight years since. He wonders how his family could not have noticed that they had a boy they lost. In the meantime Jip has become the most valuable worker on the farm. He has a way with animals that calms and comforts them. In fact he even milks the cow because the cow likes him so much more than the mistress.
Paterson is a marvel. She has the knack to take us right there to the muddy roads and bland gruel of the poor farm. Jip is unassuming but amazing, helping Sheldon, who’s simple, be happy and do his work. And when the lunatic is brought to them, tied up, screaming and filthy, it is Jip who calms him. Jip discovers old Put is a great person who, except for his spells, is very sane.
But a man Jip instinctively dislikes comes to visit and tells Jip he may know where he came from. The mystery of Jip’s past haunts us all along. When the story is still leisurely, we see Jip fall in love with school and his first shot at book learning.
But soon enough we get to the climax of a breathless, life and death adventure. I won’t say too much and spoil it. It’s fantastic.