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Calico Bush (novel)

Calico Bush is a children's historical novel by Newbery-award-winning author Rachel Field. Considered by some to be her best novel,[1] it was first published in 1931 and received a Newbery Honor award.

Calico Bush
Cover of Calico Bush by Rachel Field with original illustration.jpg
Calico Bush original cover by Allen Lewis
AuthorRachel Field
IllustratorAllen Lewis
GenreChildren's Historical Fiction
PublisherSimon and Schuster
Publication date



Calico Bush is set on the Maine coast in the pioneer era, and tells the story of Marguerite, a young French orphan who becomes an indentured servant on a farm.


Field spent the 1920s summering on Sutton Island, part of Cranberry Isles, Maine. According to Margaret Lane, "The inspiration for Calico Bush probably came from the story of Marguerite La Croix, who with her husband, John Stanley, moved from Marblehead after 1767, with their many children and became the first permanent residents of Little Cranberry Island. Just north of the 'Head' their hearthstones still lie undisturbed in the field, and they themselves are buried on Maypole Point.":13[2] Field did not try to tell the woman's story exactly, but used her as inspiration for her book.

The name Calico Bush is used for a Mountain Laurel native to the eastern United States, including Maine. It is also the title of a ballad referred to in the book.

Critical receptionEdit

Besides receiving the Newbery Honor Award for 1932,[3] Calico Bush was well received by critics. Saturday Review called it "a really good book, simple in its narrative, meaty, sincere".[4] According to The New York Times, "Adult readers as well as boys and girls will be grateful to Rachel Field for this fine and absorbing tale."[5]

Decades later the book was still well-regarded. Children's literature expert May Hill Arbuthnot called Calico Bush "unusual and powerful"[6]:152 It is, she said, a "model of sound historical fiction. The picture of the times and the people is not only authentic but unusually balanced."[6]:478

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cech, John (ed) (1983). American Writers for Children, 1900-1960. Detroit: Gale Research. p. 173.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Lane, Margaret; Siri Andrews (ed) (1963). "Rachel Field and Her Contribution to Children's Literature" (PDF). The Horn Book Magazine: 13. Retrieved 18 July 2012.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
  4. ^ Canby, Henry (December 12, 1931). "The Children's Bookshop". Saturday Review: 369. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  5. ^ Field, Rachel (1987). Calico Field. Simon and Schuster. p. back cover.
  6. ^ a b Arbuthnot, May Hill (1957). Children and Books (3rd ed.). Chicago: Scott, Foresman.