What is a summary of Calico Bush by Rachel Field?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Calico Bush, Rachel Field's award-winning historic children's novel, is set in 1743 in the Cranberry Isles of Maine. Protagonist Marguerite Ledoux attempts to immigrate from France to the French colony of Quebec with her uncle, who grows sick and dies at sea, and her grandmother. She and her grandmother make it as far as the British colony of Massachusetts, but her grandmother also soon dies. Now orphaned, Marguerite is forced to sell herself as an indentured servant to a pioneer family starting a new farm in Sutton Island, one of the islands in the Cranberry Isles of Maine. Moreover, she finds herself ostracized by the family because she is not a lowly servant, she is a French-speaking servant, at a time when tensions were mounting between the French Empire and the British Empire as they challenged each other for land in North America to colonize, tensions that would soon lead to the Seven Years' War fought between the British and French, starting in 1754.

While on board the ship with the family heading from Massachusetts up to Maine, Marguerite is commissioned to look after the family's five children and any of the livestock. When they finally arrive on the island, they are dismayed to see that their new home has been torched by Indians and are warned by those on neighboring islands not to settle in the area due to the Indians' perspective that the land is consecrated. Regardless, they do settle and soon have their house rebuilt.

After settling, the family faces many hardships: their first harsh winter in Maine; the death of a child; running out of supplies and needing to find work for income while the farm is being established; and the father crushing his leg while trying to clear the fields for farming on his own. On a positive note, when the Indians return to the farm, Marguerite is able to make friends, creating peace between the Indians and the family. Soon, the family offers Marguerite her freedom so that she can finish venturing on to Quebec, but she decides she prefers staying with the family she has now made her own.

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