One of the main characters, Ben, has dyslexia, and a main part of the storyline chronicles his struggle with this frustrating condition. Because he is behind at school and feels embarrassed about his inability to read, the beginning of the novel shows Ben lashing out in violence and being disruptive at home and at school. The animals in the barn, in a team effort with his older sister, Abby, and a kind teacher at school, work hard to help Ben to overcome this disorder. They write words out on the beams of the old barn and help him learn and recognize each one. As he progresses, his outbursts calm down a bit, and he works very hard every day to keep up. Ben’s eventual triumph over his disorder is inspiring; the author indicates that each person can overcome difficulties and hardships through hard work and with the help and support of family and friends.
A thread throughout the entire novel is the value of family ties that bind the characters together. Whittington’s story of his ancestor and her amazing legacy show that one’s heritage is not merely ancient history; rather, it is an integral part of one’s own character and moral fabric. Whittington feels connected to all of his family, past and present. He takes great pride in his ancestry and family line. Even though Abby and Ben’s parents are not shining examples of parenthood and they live with their grandparents, their own ties to each other are strong and keep them anchored in hard times. Their grandparents do their best to care for them and provide a stable and comfortable place where they can thrive. The animals in the barn are a rather unique family; they help each other out, rejoice in each other’s joys, and protect each other’s interests. Al of these family ties are crucial to the success and happiness of each character. No matter what form the family takes, it is the foundation for an...
(The entire section is 659 words.)