Title: The Journeyman
Author: Elizabeth Yates
Major Themes: 19th century (1800s), New England, Children’s Books, Frontier and Pioneer Life
Synopsis: Jared Austin longs to be a man, but when past conflicts with present and he is suspected of witchcraft, will his faith sustain him?
I haven’t yet read a story by Elizabeth Yates that I didn’t love. The Journeyman is no exception. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the story, but I know that each time I laid the book down with a sigh of happiness. Elizabeth always manages to weave Christian themes into her stories, as well as delivering a solid plot, and this book is fun and inspiring—perfect for a Sunday afternoon read.
Jared Austin has always loved looking at the colors of God’s beautiful creation, and whenever he can he tries to make pictures of the splendor he sees. His friend, Jennet Thaxter, doesn’t understand why he would waste time trying to draw pictures of leaves when he can look up at the tree himself, but he always refutes her words. Jared loves her—even though she says she will only marry someone who has a hundred acres to his name—but he knows that if he waits long enough she may give in.
Then, a stranger comes to visit—a traveling journeyman, someone who works with stencils to decorate houses for people. He happens to see some of Jared’s drawings, and asks Eben, Jared’s father, if he would be willing to let his son become an apprentice. Eben relents, and soon Jared is on his way to becoming a painter. But the words of his father stay with him, and he wonders if he will ever be able to prove he is a man.
[speaking to the journeyman] “There’s no help if he brings as much bad luck to you as he has to me.”
After saying goodbye to Jennet, and promising to come back for her, Jared takes off on his new life—and hopes his past will stay put and not bother him again. But some things cannot be forgotten, and when things go wrong and word gets around that Jared is a curse to the neighborhood, will things ever be right? Can he go back for Jennet—his first, and only, love? And if he can, will she accept him?
One part of The Journeyman that I love is the fact that it is a very Christian story. Jared is continually learning to rely on the Lord more—especially when the going gets tough.
The Journeyman is partly a romance, but it’s told in such a way that it is completely fine for even the youngest child. I think the most fascinating part about it was telling about journeying stencilmen—I’d never heard of such a thing before, and Elizabeth Yates brought that particular fact of history to light. This story also tells of the unusual year of 1816, when snow fell every month of the year. Drawing on historical fact and a great handle of the methods of storytelling, Elizabeth Yates has written a classic that all families will love.
WARNING: Chapter 1: a mother dies soon after giving birth. Chapter 6: a baby is stillborn, then a calf is. Chapter 9: two little girls die. Chapter 10: a witch hunt, a mention of a man hanging himself.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above