Title: You Are Too Small, Little Eli!
Author: Judy Yoder
Series: Little Eli series, book 1
Major Themes: Oklahoma, Farm Life, Family Life, Amish
Synopsis: As his family struggles to make a living on their farm in Oklahoma during several years of drought, Little Eli helps where he can and wishes he were bigger.
Almost a year ago, we received a book catalog from a publisher from whom we buy a lot of our school books. My then-10-year-old son looked through the catalog and picked out a number of books he wanted me to buy. You Are Too Small, Little Eli! was one of them. I think he was attracted to the picture on the cover—what boy doesn’t like a story that involves cowboys? We just finished reading the book, and several of my boys enjoyed it.
Eli was still too young for school at the beginning of the story, in 1939. His Amish family struggled to make a living on their farm in Oklahoma—but every summer, the crops dried out and all their income had to go to pay the interest on the bank loan. Would they ever have enough to make a payment on the loan itself? Then one summer, there were regular rains, and the crops were looking good…until a terrific storm came through.
As Dad struggled to keep the farm, Eli did his part. He certainly got tired of carrying water, but he did it. He dreamed of being a cowboy, and created a farm in the dust under the tree. He watched his parents work and help neighbors who needed shelter during a storm when their horse gave out. He saw his mother’s bravery during a storm in which so much hail fell that the horse’s back was bleeding. And finally—he was big enough to go to school!
You Are Too Small, Little Eli! is a beautiful, true story of a family’s life on the prairies of Oklahoma around 1940. Life was hard, but the family worked and played together lovingly. Any child who enjoys stories about farm life or just family life will enjoy this book. If you like to read about the Amish, this is a good, very accurate story of their lifestyle, told by Eli’s daughter from the stories he and other family members related to her. The pictures are lovely, too, even though this is a chapter book, not a picture book per se.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12