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Danny and Life on Bluff Point:
Cougar Threat

Mary Ellen Lee

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : iUniverse

Published : 2008

Copyright : Mary Ellen Lee 1999

ISBN-10 : PB 0-595-46407-6
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-595-46407-4

Publisher's Write-Up

Danny and Life on Bluff Point - Book 1

Ten-year-old Danny yearns for responsibility and a chance to prove his skills. He desperately wants to pitch in and ease the difficulties that pioneer life presents to his family as they manage their large fruit and livestock farm in 1894.Life on the farm is hard, though, and Danny, with his unusually small stature, struggles to gain strength to help his father and the hired hands. After all, there are difficult chores to tackle: chopping and hauling wood, caring for the workhorses, slopping the pigs, and hunting food.

With sheer determination, Danny takes on everything his father allows, working hard to help ensure his family's well-being. What Danny comes to realize, though, is that it's not a person's size that counts. When he confronts a rogue cougar, runaway horses, and a classroom bully, Danny must use his wits, sensibilities, and instincts to prevail.

Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will find Danny's adventures particularly satisfying. Come along with Danny as he learns about both the harsh realities and simple pleasures of rural life in New York.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Molly Martin (300618) Rating (9/10)

Review by Molly Martin
Book Source: Not Known
Rating 9/10

Mary Ellen Lee’s Danny and Life on Bluff Point, steeped in history set in upstate New York, the narrative opens with Ma admonishing Danny to eat his breakfast.

Small for his age, Danny is often the focus of his sisters’ teasing. It is December in the 1890s New York State, and Danny and his father are readying to go to the woodlot where they will get a load of logs to take to the family mill.

The woodlot with stacks of seasoned logs prepared for cutting into stove lengths, a cougar in a tree, working at the mill, using a windmill to run the buzz saw, splitting wood into kindling with a hatchet and stacking wood for use during the winter, are all part of a day’s activities.

Berkshire hogs, listening to Pa read aloud after supper in the evening, chores to do even on Sunday, one full bath a week, Sunday church services held in the school house, and spending time with family after services, are simple activities enjoyed by the family. A red fox seen hunting in the snow on the ground, and a boisterous team hitched to the cutter, sleigh or carriage, can spell catastrophe should the horses ‘spook.’

Tramping the ‘long way round’ in the snow, Ruthie, Mary and Danny go to school where Billy Marshall roils with choler because lucky Danny gets to go to school every day while Billy must work on his family’s farm and can attend only periodically. Great Uncle Jerome and his narrative of the ‘war of the rebellion,’ horse care lessons, skating on the frozen pond, family dog Buster attacked by a cougar, and a panicked scream from an anxiety stricken horse are all part of this spell binding chronicle.

Danny and Life on Bluff Point is a persuasive read rooted in the author Lee’s Grandfather’s childhood journal musings. Author Lee relates that the various family persons mentioned in the narratives are factual persons. Danny himself is based on the author’s father. The locations noted are existent, and many of the houses mentioned continue to be used today.

Farm life in New York state during the 1890s was filled with hard work, few amenities as we know them today were available, kindred trust and belonging, and joyous times were the spirit of the era. The warmth of family life and life values exhibited by the characters depicted are all brought to life under the skilled pen of writer Lee.

Readers will relish meeting Clara the cat, Buster the collie, sisters Ruthie, Mary and Carolyn, along with Ma and Pa, Uncle Jerome and Aunt Liz, Uncle Henry and Aunt Mertie, and Cousin Jay. Family and extended family were all important to feelings of security and happy times during the era just before the turn of the century.

Readers will learn something of Cousin William Fenner, bully Billy Marshall, Doc and Uncle Ed, along with big Belgians Kit and Bess, and Jim and Dan the big draft horses hitched to wagons or bobsleds or moving family or materials over distances before automobiles became common.

Cooking and heating the house with wood is not often found in homes, even ones with small decorative fireplaces today. Wood burning stoves downstairs, stove pipes and registers carry heat to the rooms upstairs. Eggs and butter to sell, machine threshed beans sold by the bushel, cows getting loose and needing to be found, rounded up and brought home, Christmas shopping and gifts often made at home along with the whole community meeting at the school for a community Christmas social will delight middle grade readers.

Before radio or TV, before computers or video games, and few ‘store bought’ goods all speak of a time and place today all but forgotten when clothing including the cloth for sewing and yarn for knitting were often produced at home.

That these anecdotes found in the Danny books are based upon true events and real people are a pleasure for teachers as they endeavour to bring ‘social studies’ alive in the classroom. Many situations presented in the narrative; conflict resolution, dealing with bullies in an affirmative manner, getting the better of demands, cooperation within family and community, old time family fun and caring are values valued then and valued today.

Danny and Life on Bluff Point is a book I used in my classroom; I read it aloud a chapter a day for a period after lunch and made the book available for student reading. My experience with the book was very good, students enjoyed hearing it read aloud and took pleasure in taking it to read again for themselves at home and for DEAR reading. Pencil drawings sprinkled throughout the work adds much to reader understanding and enjoyment and prompted drawings to illustrate stories and writing done in the classroom.

Danny and Life on Bluff Point is a dandy addition for the personal reading list for the 9 to 12 set, classroom and school library shelves, home reading shelf and Public library. Danny and Life on Bluff Point provided a focal point for discussion groups regarding life in the United States a century ago. I found Danny and Life on Bluff Point to be a middle grade gem for stimulating and maintaining interest among the 9 – 12 age student. A persuasive read founded on the childhood journals kept by author Mary Ellen Lee’s grandfather and set down for modern children by Lee; ten-year-old Danny hopes one day to be tall and strong like his father.

The elaborately illustrated journals writer Lee utilized for her Danny series render the grist for the Danny books. Danny’s life during the 1890s is occupied with the self-same daily tasks and responsibilities as was experienced by youngsters across the nation during the late 1800s.

Crammed with perceptiveness into an era that is all but gone today; the Danny books provide teachers and youngsters alike with a valuable ‘social studies’ tool for use in the classroom.

As my fourth grade class excitedly prepared for a daylong trip to a one room school located in our area where the students experienced long dresses and bonnets and knee pants with long socks, slates, pens to dip in ink, dinner buckets, old time desks set on runners with seat section of one providing the desk top section for the behind, and a school setting very different from the one we face each day; the Danny books I had read earlier in the school year were now read and re-read, discussed, talked about, taken home and all but devoured as we prepared for our day to be 1890s students.

The pencil drawings found on the pages were studied in detail.

The Danny books proved to be a boon with their well written sequence of events, interesting drawings and readable narrative.

Enjoyed the read, and am happy to recommend for the middle grade reader and adults who enjoy historical tales.

Compelling Read... Highly Recommended.
Molly Martin (30th June 2018)

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