Title: Skippack School
Author: Marguerite De Angeli
Major Themes: Christopher Dock, Christopher Sauer, Mennonites, Pennsylvania
Synopsis: After his family moves to Pennsylvania, young Eli begins school with Christopher Dock as his teacher.
Marguerite de Angeli’s books are delightful! She tells a lovely story that young children can appreciate, and I really like the illustrations, as well. They are pen-and-ink drawings, and a lot of them in Skippack School are colored, as well.
Eli and his family have just arrived in Philadelphia on the Charming Nancy, after crossing the ocean from Germany. They quickly make their way to the land that Cousin Jacob found for them, and with the neighbors’ help they soon have a house to live in. Then, Eli must start school. He is not sure about this, but his teacher, Christopher Dock, helps him to enjoy learning. However, what happens when Eli’s rock goes the wrong way and breaks a window? Will the bench he has been crafting for his mother be good enough to buy a new piece of glass?
Gradually, Eli learns to take responsibility and help others, and one week, Christopher Dock takes Eli with him to the German Town school. While there, he gets to visit Christopher Sauer’s printshop, and with the paper he is given there, he makes a surprise for his teacher.
This is a lovely glimpse into colonial America and the German settlers in Pennsylvania. It is also a lovely story in its own right, as Eli learns to like learning and helping his family and community. It’s very gentle, with not a lot of conflict; just right for young children!
WARNING: A number of superstitions are mentioned.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12