cover image The Huckabuck Family: And How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back

The Huckabuck Family: And How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back

Carl Sandburg. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-33511-3

The homespun, old-fashioned charm of Small's (The Gardener) busy pictures makes the most of this winning narrative, first published in 1923 as one of Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories. The comedy begins on a Nebraska corn farm owned by the Huckabucks: Jonas Jonas, Mama Mama and their daughter, Pony Pony (""I call my pony-face girl Pony Pony because if she doesn't hear me the first time, she always does the second,"" quips her father). The family's crop yields a bountiful harvest. But when Pony Pony finds a Chinese silver slipper buckle in the middle of a squash, her parents predict this means that their luck is going to change, ""and we don't know whether it will be good luck or bad luck."" A fire in the barn causes a veritable blizzard of popcorn, with Pony Pony and her dog staring out at each other, goggle-eyed. The Huckabucks then take to the road for several years while they wait for ""a sign, a signal"" to return home. As they cover the Midwestern states, Small shows the family as a tightly knit trio, with a mother and daughter proud of Jonas Jonas's resourcefulness, whether he is driving a coal wagon or watching the watches in a watch factory. When the Huckabucks finally get their ""sign"" to return to their farm, Small makes the most of their homecoming: all the animals gather at the front door to welcome the Huckabucks home, newspapers spilling off the front stoop. He depicts the family's peripatetic lifestyle with wry wit and droll details, leading readers of this engaging book to feel they've met with the good kind of luck. All ages. (Sept.)