Patricia Brennan Demuth


Joel Growing Up A Farm Man

“A robust, eye-opening portrait” — Booklist

WINNER – Best Children’s Book

from Society of Midwestern Authors

Outstanding Book in Social Sciences

from National Council for the Social Studies & Children’s Book Council

CCBC Choice

by Cooperative Children’s Book Center
School of Education. Madison, Wisconsin

The Best In Children’s Books

Listed in The Best in Children’s Books: The University of Chicago’s Guide, by Zena Sutherland

The Society of Midland AuthorsNotable Social StudiesCCBCcbc-bk-council

Inside The Book

The piglet gets his medicine.

The piglet gets his medicine.

On a typical hay-baling day, Joel lifts and throws 16 tons.

On a typical hay-baling day, Joel lifts and throws 16 tons.

Joel climbs the 60-foot silo overlooking the family farm.

Joel climbs the 60-foot silo overlooking the family farm.

Praise for Joel Growing up Farm Man

The Demuths’ engrossing story and superb photos will appeal strongly to young readers who learn about Joel and the Holland family’s demanding but satisfying way of life.

Publishers Weekly

A robust, eye-opening portrait

Booklist, American Library Association

This way of life may be a revelation to many young people. A fascinating account of growing up on a farm.

The Science Teacher

A “CCBC Choice”: An exceptional book of text and photographs documenting the farm life of 13-year-old Joel.

— Cooperative Children’s Book Center; Madison, Wisconsin

The hardships, the disappointments, the tragedies, the dangers, and heartbreaks of farming are all here. An excellent book.

— Science Books for Young People, Boston University

This book should appeal to all ages.

— Milwaukee Journal

“Best Books of 1982”: An absorbing photo essay covering a year in the life of Joel Holland

— The Christian Science Monitor

Good books telling about hard-working teenagers and their accomplishments are few and far between. This book is highly recommended through junior high age.

— Linn-Benton Education; Oregon

It would be difficult indeed to find a volume more helpful in explaining what life on a farm involves.

— Chattanooga Daily Times. Tennessee

New York Times Book Review

JOEL: GROWING UP A FARM MAN By Patricia Demuth. Photographs by Jack Demuth. 144 pp. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. $12.95. (Ages 8 to 12) By SHERWIN D.SMITH

Agribusiness may be taking over, but family farms still exist. Thirteen-year-old Joel Holland lives on one, 245 acres in northwestern Illinois, and the Demuths spent a year living nearby, recording Joel’s daily life in straightforward words and photographs. Their book introduces a young urban reader to an unknown world. It’s not the world of “Charlotte’s Web,” either.

It’s a world of hard work and muddy boots, of chores before and after school, of 15-hour-work days at harvest time. One summer day, according to the Demuths’ count, Joel fed 320 animals, lifted 900 pounds of grain, shoveled 4,000 pounds, walked or ran 8 miles, jumped 15 barbed-wire fences and drove farm machinery 25 miles. (He’s been driving tractors since second grade.) The Hollands raise pigs, cattle and sheep and grow corn, oats and hay. It’s a business worth close to $1 million, and everybody — Joel, his father and mother, his 16-year-old brother and his two grown brothers, who have their own farms close by — shares in the work. Joel’s special responsibility — for all practical purposes, he’s in charge — is the hog operation, which grosses more than $40,000 a year.

Raising animals for sale for food leaves little room for sentiment (that is reserved for Jessica the dog and one pet lamb). The realities of shoveling manure, of birthing calves, of castrating piglets (and clipping their tails so that the other pigs won’t chew on them) and of fighting to keep animals from dying during a smothering Middle Western heat wave are learned early.

So are pride in one’s skills and a sense of fulfillment in dealing with living, growing things. There’s even time for fun —hunting in the fall, snowmobiling in the winter, fishing and water-skiing in the summer. Above all, on this farm there’s a sense of family unity and continuity. The house Joel lives in was built by his great-grandfather. Hollands have been working this same patch of land since Joel’s great-great-grandfather bought it more than 120 years ago. “After living out here, I don’t think I’d ever want to be in the city,” says Joel. “I’d miss seeing things grow. The change of seasons.” And he adds: “You just don’t have the freedom” in the city. “Or the responsibilities. I’m not saying a city kid doesn’t have responsibilities. But you don’t work as a family the way you do on a farm.”

New York Times Book Review, Children’s Books. April 4, 1982
Sherwin D. Smith, an editor of The New York Times Magazine