Marven of the Great North Woods
Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes
Summary: Marven, 10, is sent to a remote lumber camp to escape a 1918 influenza epidemic in his hometown of Duluth, MN. He takes the train by himself and skis the five miles from the station to the camp. He is assigned to keep the books for the lumber camp and quickly devises an effective system. Although he longs to be reunited with his close-knit family, he makes friends with the French-speaking lumberjacks and finds a way to adapt his Jewish dietary laws to the camp food.
Unit prepared by Cindy Allas
Print a map of Minnesota. Find Duluth and Bemidji and label them. Draw where you think the logging camp was and label. Remember it was 5 miles from the train station, but we don't know what direction so choose your own. Draw a line connecting Duluth to Bemidji to the logging camp.
on the upper border of the United States midway between the east and west
coasts. Over its northern border is the country of Canada. It also borders
the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and Lake
Superior. The source of the Mississippi River is Lake Itasca in Minnesota. It
was the 32nd state admitted into the Union on May 11, 1858 by President James
Buchanan. Minnesota was originally the home of the Ojibway (Chippewa) and
Dakota (Sioux) Native American tribes.
Minnesota Fun Facts
* Known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes", Minnesota actually has more than 11,000 lakes 10 acres or bigger. It has 90,000 miles of shoreline, more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.
* The average snowfall in a Minnesota winter is 58.9 inches.
* Bloomington, MN has the largest shopping mall in America.
*The name 'Minnesota' means cloudy or sky-tinted water from the Dakota language.
*The Northwest Angle at the top of the state is the northernmost point in the continental (excludes Alaska and Hawaii) United States.
*Minnesota is one of the leading producers of milk in the country.
*The first successful open-heart surgery took place at the University of Minnesota in 1952.
*Minnesota inventions include: Masking and Scotch tape, Wheaties cereal, Bisquick, HMOs, the bundt pan, Aveda beauty products, and Green Giant vegetables
The Lasky family emigrated from Russia to America in the early 1900‘s. From 1880 - 1930, 3,300,000 emigrated from Russia. People seeking to come from Russia would often make their way to Hamburg, Germany or Rotterdam, Netherlands and board a ship departing for America. Most ships would disembark at Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor. It had been designated the first Federal immigration station in 1890.
Print a world map. Label Russia, label Ellis Island, and label Minnesota. Draw a line to connect the route.
Here is a passenger record from Ellis Island. It is has the same name as Marven’s mother who immigrated to America around the same time, but it is not the same person.
Find out more
Life in 1918
Did your student notice anything in this story that points to a different time period than the one he currently lives in?
There are some things in the book that may not be familiar to children of the 21st century-- knickers, glue pot, inkwell, fountain pen, the ragman, kerosene lamps, the milkman, blotter strips, etc. Does your student know what those things are? Interview a grandparent or another older adult. Ask them what some of these were and if they ever used them. Ask them to tell you any stories of life when they were your age. If you don't have an older person to ask, help your student research these things to find out what they are.
World War I had been raging for four years by the time 1918 rolled around. Men from all over the United States were required to register for the draft. Once they were drafted, they had to move to military camps across the U.S. Unfortunately, the camps were breeding grounds for disease and soldiers were the first victims of the influenza pandemic. As the disease spread, hospitals were overloaded with influenza patients.
Despite the problems in the country and around the world, entertainment was gaining popularity. Americans had more money and leisure time than ever before. Places such as skating rinks, movies, dance halls, and amusement parks were well visited.
If your student would like to learn more about the influenza epidemic in Minnesota, you can visit this website.
Whenever Marven's mother had many things to do, she made a list. Discuss list making with your student. Have your student practice this as a life skill by writing a list; he could choose one of the following-- things he needs to do this week, a grocery list, a list of Christmas presents he plans on making/purchasing for others, verses from the Bible he wants to memorize, etc.
Marven's family is Jewish and we, the readers, get to see glimpses of Jewish culture throughout the story. When Marven is given the job of waking the burly lumberjacks, he is scared. He wonders if there is a blessing (prayer) he can say that will help him with his task.
Here are a few Jewish blessings-
Upon waking up in the
"I give thanks before You, Living and Eternal King, that You have returned within me my soul with compassion; [how] abundant is Your faithfulness!"
For putting on a prayer shawl-
"Bless, (O) my soul, the LORD. LORD my God, You are very great; glory and majesty have You worn – Who dons light as a garment, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain."
Before eating bread-
"Blessed are you, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."
After a meal-
"Blessed are you, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."
After surviving danger or illness-
"Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the Universe, who bestows good things on the unworthy, and has bestowed on me every goodness."
Jewish culture is also evidenced
in the foods that Marven's mother prepares for him- knishes and latkes.
You may like to try a recipe for latkes this week.
2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oil
Extract as much moisture as possible from the potatoes (use a cheesecloth and wring). In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Serve hot with toppings to choose from-- chopped green onions, sour cream, and applesauce.
Marven mentions that Jews don't eat milk and meat at the same meal; he says that they never eat bacon. Orthodox Jews follow strict dietary guides (as found in the Torah-- the first five books of the Old Testament); they only eat Kosher foods (foods that have specially been prepared in accordance to their standards). If your grocery store has an ethnic food section, be sure and point it out to your student the next time you are shopping together. Can she find some Kosher foods?
In the 1800's to the early 1900's, lumbering of pine forests made possible the building of new settlements that turned the prairies into farms and back east turned the settlements into towns and cities.
Logging was done in the winter. It was easier this way for many reasons. Winter ice, spring floods, available labor were among the advantages. Summer disadvantages were mosquitoes and thick grasses. In the winter more men were available to work at lumbering camps because they weren't tending their own harvests. In the winter it was also easier to push and pull the logs around because they would slide on the snow and ice. The loggers would purposely ice up the dirt roads by pouring water in the ruts. The logs were stored on the thick frozen ice of the rivers and then in the spring when it thawed there was plenty of water to float the logs downriver to the sawmill.
Sawyers, undercutters, and teamsters were paid $30 and boarding (bed and meals) a month. Other jobs were cooks and swampers (did labor jobs such as cutting branches off the cut logs). Cooks received $45 per month and swampers $26.
Don't miss this interactive story with pop-up photos about lumbering in comic book format
Map of State Forests (blue section indicates where the logging camps were; marked dots are current towns not logging camps)
Steps of Logging
I. Chopping the trees
a. undercutters cut notches into the tree with a double-bit axe to make it fall in the right direction
b. sawyers chopped down the tree with a two-man cross-cut saw
c. undercutters mark the tree into what size logs to cut the tree into
d. The cut logs would be stamped on one end with a mark identifying which logs belonged to who by the time they reached the sawmill.
Activity to make your own log mark
II. Removing the logs from the forest
a. the teamster (man whose job is driving teams of horses) and a cant hook man would skid the logs to a sled
b. The horses pulled from one side of the sled while the cant hook man pushed from the other side to roll the log up two tracks called skids onto the top of the sled where the top loader would place the log into position on top of the others already there.
c. The teamster drove the sled to the river and unloaded the logs onto the frozen ice.
III. The Log drive down the river
a. In the spring after the frozen river was completely thawed, usually between May and June, it was time to drive the logs downriver. The drive began in the smaller tributaries and proceeded to the Mississippi River and down to the sawmills in Minneapolis.
b. A dam would be built in smaller rivers to hold in the water and then when released the logs would float down the river with the water.
c. The log drive had three crews. They all wore boots with spikes in the sole to help them stand on the logs.
1. the driving crew to guide the logs down the river
2. the rear crew to catch stray logs floating the wrong way
3. the jam crew to break apart log jams
The Shantyman's Life (a lumberjack song)
All you jolly fellows, come listen to my song;
It's all about the pinery boys and how they got along.
They're the jolliest lot of fellows, so merrily and fine,
They will spend the pleasant winter months in cutting down the pine.
Some would leave their friends and homes, and others they love dear,
And into the lonesome pine woods their pathway they do steer.
Into the lonesome pine woods all winter to remain,
A'waiting for the springtime to return again.
Springtime comes, oh, glad will be its day!
Some return to home and friends, while others go astray.
The sawyers and the choppers, they lay their timber low.
The swampers and the teamsters they haul it to and fro.
Next comes the loaders before the break of day.
Load up your sleighs, five thousand feet to the river, haste away.
Noon time rolls around, our foremen loudly screams,
"Lay down your tools, me boys, and we'll haste to pork and beans."
We arrive at the shanty, the splashing then begins,
The banging of the water pails, the rattling of the tins.
In the middle of the splashing, our cook for dinner does cry.
We all arise and go, for we hate to lose our pie.
Dinner being over, we into our shanty go.
We all fill up our pipes and smoke 'til everything looks blue.
"It's time for the wood, me boys," our foreman he does say.
We all gather up our hats and caps, to the woods we haste away.
We all go with a welcome heart and a well contented mind
For the winter winds blow cold among the waving pines.
The ringing of saws and axes until the sun goes down.
"Lay down your tools, me boys, for the shanties we are bound."
We arrive at the shanties with cold and wet feet,
Take off our overboots and packs, the supper we must eat.
Supper being ready, we all arise and go
For it ain't the style of lumberjack to lose his hash, you know.
At three o'clock in the morning, our bold cook loudly shouts,
"Roll out, roll out, you teamsters, it time that you are out."
The teamsters they get up in a fright and manful wail:
"Where is my boots? Oh, where's my pack? My rubbers have gone astray.
"They other men they then get up, their packs they cannot find
And they lay it to the teamsters, and they curse them 'til they're blind.
Springtime comes, Oh, glad will be the day!
Lay down your tools, me boys, and we'll haste to break away.
The floating ice is over, and business now destroyed.
And all the able-bodied men are wanted on the Pelican drive.
With jam-pikes and peaveys those able men do go
Up all those wild and dreary streams to risk their lives you know.
On cold and frosty mornings they shiver with the cold,
So much ice upon their jam-pikes, they scarcely them can hold.
Now whenever you hear those verses, believe them to be true.
For if you doubt one word of them, just ask Bob Munson's crew.
It was in Bob Munson's shanties where they were sung with glee
And the ending of my song is signed with C, D, F, and G.
Glossary for song
• choppers: lumberjacks in charge of cutting down trees.
• "daylight in the swamp": a cook's call to breakfast. Lumberjacks often referred to logging as "letting daylight in the swamp."
• jam-pike: a heavy pike with an eight-foot wooden handle and an eight inch spike at the front end, used by lumberjacks to move logs on a river. It was eventually replaced by the peavey. loaders: workers responsible for loading logs on sleighs or freight cars.
• peavey: a tool for rolling and handling logs floating in water. pinery: the region of northern Wisconsin and Michigan known for its heavy growth of white pine.
• shanty: sleeping quarters, bunkhouse.
• shantyman: original name for a lumberjack.
Christmas Eve at a Lumber Camp
Photos of logging camps/ Minnesota 1910-1920
Marven arranged the names in alphabetical order so that they would be easier to work with. Have your student put the following names in alphabetical order (according to last name):
snowshoes- frames attached to shoes and used for walking across snow
lumberjacks- person whose work is cutting down trees and sending them to the sawmill
woodsman- a person who lives or works in the forest
bunkhouse- a building in a camp where a group of people sleep
cords- a unit of measurement for measuring wood
immense- very large, huge
timber - trees that can be used as building wood
landscape - a stretch of land
flapjacks - pancakes
dismay - to fill with a sudden concern
glowered - looked annoyed
frantic - wildly excited
broche - a Hebrew blessing
latke - a potato pancake
knish - squares of dough filled with potato or other mashed vegetable and baked
Marven of the Great North Woods Vocabulary Flashcards
Foreign Language- French
Many of the lumberjacks were French Canadian. Their ancestors (or they themselves) came from France and settled in Canada. Use a French/English dictionary to look up the meanings of these words used by the lumberjacks. If your student wants a challenge, let him try to figure out the meaning of the phrases (hint: use the context of the story).
bonjour - hello
en retard - late
leve-toi - get up
mon petit - my little one
merci beaucoup - thank you much
au revoir - good bye
Qui es tu?- Who are you?
Quel est ton nom?- What is your name?
Folklore- Paul Bunyan
Is your student familiar with tall tales of Paul Bunyan, the famous lumberjack? Paul Bunyan originated in the work of James MacGilivray, an American newspaper reporter who wrote his first Paul Bunyan article in 1906. He collected stories from lumberjacks, added a few of his own embellishments, and made a legend. Try to find some versions of Paul Bunyan at your library and read them together this week.
Lasky uses some super similes in her writing. If your student isn't familiar with this figure of speech, take a moment to teach him. A simile uses like or as to compare two things (usually two unlike things). Here are some of Lasky's examples:
~It (Jean Louis' eye) glittered like a blue star beneath his thick black eyebrow.
~Immense men with long beards and wild hair were jumping around to the fiddler's tunes like a pack of frantic giant grizzly bears.
~Marven came upon a frozen lake covered with snow, which lay in a circle of tall trees like a bowl of sugar.
~His laugh was as powerful as an ax.
~The handle glistened like dark honey.
Have your student copy some of these similes (or the passage in the next lesson) as a copywork exercise this week.
Ask your student to describe snow. It isn't the easiest thing in the world to describe; the main word that comes to mind is white. Imagine the woods of Minnesota where everything is white. As an author how do you describe it so that it is appealing to your reader? Well, it's not a simple task, but Lasky does an amazing job. Here is a sample of her writing--
"Here in the great north woods all was still and white. Beads of ice glistened on bare branches like jewels. The frosted needles of pine and spruce pricked the eggshell sky, and a ghostly moon began to climb over the treetops."
Wow! What great imagery. Did your student catch the simile? You may also want to point out the personification (moon began to climb) as a quick review if your student is familiar with that literary device.
Creative Writing: Letter or Journal Writing
Write a letter to Jean Louis from Marven explaining how life has gone since he returned to Duluth. Another option would be to write some journal entries Marven might have written during his stay at the lumber camp.
Parts of Speech- Adjectives
An adjective is a word that describes a noun (a person, place or thing). Some examples of adjectives are a bright sun, a deep hole, a cold, windy day. Adjectives help you to picture the story more clearly. Kathryn Lasky uses adjectives liberally in her writing. Can you find some examples from the story?
Poetry Writing- Cinquain Poem
Try writing a cinquain poem about Minnesota. What kind of images did the story give you? cold, snowy, white, sun, shadows, forests. Use these ideas or think of some of your own.
A cinquain is a short poem that doesn't rhyme. It has 5 lines.
a noun (name of a person, place or thing).
Line 2:Write two adjectives describing the noun on line 1
Line 3:Write 3 words ending with –ing (action words) that describe what the noun on line 1 might do
Line 4:Write a phrase describing the noun on line 1
Line 5:Write a synonym of the word on line 1
1. What did Marven keep in his pockets to keep him warm?
2. Why did Marven have to leave home?
3. How old was Marven?
4. How old was Marven when he first got skis?
5. How far was it from the railroad station to the lumberjack camp?
6. What were the long shadows Marven saw in the snow?
7. What was Jean Louis’s symbol for his chit?
8. Why did Jean Louis use a symbol instead of his signature?
9. What did Marven have for lunch everyday?
10. What did Marven think was a grizzly bear?
11. What gift did Jean Louis give to Marven?
Language Arts Resources
~Word search, matching, concentration game
~Make a character portrait
Although Marven never encounters a grizzly in this book, he thinks he is going to! If your student is interested, spend some time learning more about these bears.
There is only one species of brown bear, but it has many different variations including the Grizzly bear. Grizzlies are found in North America; their brown fur is tipped with white or tan giving them a grizzled appearance and also giving them their name. They have humps on their shoulders, are about 6-7 feet long, weigh from 200-850 pounds, and have long claws. Despite their size, grizzly bears can move pretty fast with a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour; you definitely wouldn't want to meet up with one in a dark forest!
Grizzlies are probably thought of as carnivores (meat-eaters), but they are actually omnivores (plant and meat eaters) who feast on grass, berries, roots, insects, fish such as salmon, carrion (dead animals) and large mammals such as elk and moose. The specific diet of a grizzly depends on where in the United States it is located.
These bears, like many others, live alone except during breeding and cub rearing. Cubs are born in January or February while mothers are hibernating in their dens. The cubs stay in the den with their mother until April or May. In the summer grizzlies consume as much as possible to fatten up for the winter. When it's time to settle down for winter, the mother shows her cubs how to make a nest of mosses, lichens, and/or leaves. Mother and cubs curl up together for a long winter snooze that usually lasts 5-8 months. The cubs usually stay with their mother for 2-4 years.
There was a flu epidemic in Minnesota. An epidemic is an outbreak of a contagious disease that spreads rapidly and widely.
What causes the
The flu is caused by the influenza virus. It is spread from person to person by direct contact (shaking hands), small droplets from sneezes or coughs, contact with objects (hanker chiefs, clothing) that have been in contact with fluid from an infected person's nose or throat.
What are flu symptoms?
Different strains of flu include various symptoms, but the following are the most common:
~fever (usually 100° F to 103° F)
Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting are also symptoms. Most people recover from the flu in 1-2 weeks.
Lots of people get the flu, but what do you do?
~Drink lots of liquids, like water, chicken broth, and other fluids.
~Get plenty of sleep. If you can't sleep anymore, keep resting. Listen to music, watch a movie, or read a book or magazine.
~Wear layers. You might be cold one minute and hot the next, so if you wear plenty of layers you can pull your favorite sweatshirt on and off.
~Wash your hands! You don't want to spread the germs that cause the flu. Don't share cups and eating utensils, like forks and spoons, with anyone.
It's important to let someone know if you have trouble breathing, your muscles really hurt, you feel confused, or if you start feeling worse at any time.
Here are a few germ-y experiments/activities to try at your house
Gross Germ Garden
Materials: a small saucepan, ¼ c. of water, 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin, 1 tsp. sugar, 2 Petri dishes with lids, swabs, tape
Preparing your culture medium:
1. Measure one teaspoon of gelatin
2. Boil ¼ c. of water, then add the one teaspoon of gelatin and one tsp of sugar. Stir for one minute until everything is dissolved.
3. Let the solution cool for ten minutes.
4. Fill both Petri dishes to a little below the top edge.
5. Let the gelatin solidify for 24 hours. Taking the swab, wipe it across a surface (your skin, a kitchen counter or sink, your mouse for your computer, a door knob, etc.). Wipe the swab onto the gelatin in one of the petri dishes.
6. Close both dishes immediately and let stand for at least four days in a warm, dark place.
7. It will turn into a gross mess of mold/bacteria! Compare the two different dishes (the one that was swabbed and the one that wasn't).
Observe the dishes every other day and keep a chart of what they look like. After the experiment is completed, throw away the bacteria-filled dish and contents. DO NOT try to recycle the petri dish.
Passing Germs Activity
Try this hands-on science activity to demonstrate how germs spread from one person to another. Best with a small group.
Materials: tempera or other washable paint, wet paper towels to clean up with
Explain that the germs that can make us sick are invisible and can spread easily
because we don't see them.
2. Hide a small quantity of paint in your hand and then pretend to sneeze or cough into your hand.
3. Now shake hands with a child sitting near you.
4. Ask that child to shake hands with a child near him, until all the children have had a chance to shake hands.
5. Ask, "What happened to your hands? How did the paint get there?" Children can figure out that it started when you pretended to cough into your hand.
6. Clean up.
Arts and Crafts
Painting and Drawing
The illustrator painted the illustrations in Marven of the Great North Woods using acrylic paints. Acrylics can be bought inexpensively in a set at a craft store. They will not wash out of your clothing however. So decide if you want to experiment with acrylics if you haven’t used them or would prefer something washable such as tempera’s.
Draw and paint a picture of the lumberjack camp or the forest surrounding it. Rub glue stick over the snowy areas and stick on wispy (pulled apart) cotton balls to be the snow.
-use salt instead of cotton balls.
-torn white construction paper for snow drifts
-white or clear glitter on the snow
-3 styrofoam balls in graduating sizes}
-felt or fabric scraps
-orange and brown pipe cleaners or twigs
1. Cut off to
make a flat side on the biggest ball so it can stand. (Parent should do this)
2. Attach the balls to each other with toothpicks. Push it into the lower ball halfway and stick the next size ball on top. Do it again with the med. and smaller (head) balls.
3. Make his nose with orange pipe cleaner pieces or cutout felt and glue on.
4. Make his arms with twigs or brown pipe cleaners and glue on.
5. Make his eyes, mouth, and buttons with sequins, beads, cutout black felt, etc. and glue on.
6. Make his scarf with colorful felt or scrap fabric and drape around neck, glue on.
Sewing- Fleece Hat
Did you know that up to 40% of your body heat is lost through your head? It's important to keep a hat on in the winter!
Here is adorable fleece hat that your child can even sew-- just teach him/her a running straight stitch.
-1/2 yard fleece fabric
-Needle and thread
-Buttons, appliqués, or felt pieces for decoration
-1 yard decorative cord
determine the size of the hat. (To avoid ruining the surprise, measure the head
of someone who is similar in size to the recipient.) Now cut a piece of fleece
that’s 16 inches wide and as long as the measurement you took plus 2 inches.
2. Fold the fleece in half, right side in so the 16-inch edges match up. Sew a 1/2-inch-wide seam along this edge, stopping 5 inches from the bottom. Just below the last stitch, make a 1/2-inch cut in from the side. Turn the material right side out. Now sew a seam along the last 5 inches of unsewn fleece.
3. Roll the bottom of the hat up two turns, so the cuff conceals the bottom part of the seam. To keep the cuff from unrolling, sew on a decorative button, an appliqué, or a felt cutout.
4. Roll the bottom of the hat up two turns, so the cuff conceals the bottom part of the seam. To keep the cuff from unrolling, sew on a decorative button, an appliqué, or a felt cutout.
A picture of what your hat will look like is at the attached link:
More Winter Craft Ideas