- Kirsten Larson
- Peter Larson
- Lars Larson
- Anders Larson
- Greta Larson
- Anna Larson
- Lisbeth Larson
- Olav Larson
- Mr. Berkhoff
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter One: The Bee Tree
Kirsten's mother informs Kirsten and her younger brother Peter that they would need to catch fish for dinner for Uncle Olav's family as well as their own. She wonders if they will be able to catch that many. Kirsten, eager to be on her way, says they will since the stream is full of trout. Mama reminds Kirsten to take good care of Peter, pointing out that he chased a skunk the last time they went fishing. Peter attempts to defend himself by saying that he only did that once.
Mama walks with them to the path crossing the meadow, reminding them to watch out for snakes and bears as well. She then asks them if they have their whistle. Kirsten confirms and says that they will blow if anything happens. She whispers to Peter that their mother worries too much, and he points out that their father said that mothers are supposed to worry.
When they run towards the stream, Kirsten's dog Caro follows them. Kirsten says they should send Caro back home since he might steal the fish, but Peter begs to bring the dog with them. Kirsten tells Peter that Caro will chase everything, even a snake. If Caro were to come with them, Peter would have to look after him. Peter promises that he will.
At the stream, Peter rolls up his pants, Kirsten tucks her skirt into her waste-band and Caro splashes into the water. Kirsten reminds Peter that Caro will scare away the fish with all the splashing. Peter whistles and points out that Caro is "a good puppy who listens" when the dog obeys.
Kirsten wades into the stream, thinking about how wonderful it is to do "happier" work she enjoys such as fishing. Peter follows her, but laments that he would much rather swim than fish. When he questions Kirsten if he would prefer to swim as well she immediately replies that she would rather go fishing every single day; but she would prefer to have a straw hat like her cousins because her sunbonnet is too warm.
The two wade upstream and manage to catch enough fish for dinner. The quiet was suddenly interrupted by Caro yelping in pain. The dog dashed from the forest back to the stream, trying to scratch at his nose. The two rush over to Caro, realize his nose had gotten stung, and work together to remove the stinger. Peter was on the verge of crying, saying he meant to look after Caro, but was so busy fishing he hadn't noticed the dog wander off. Kirsten assures Peter he didn't have to worry and Caro would recover from his sting.
As she comforted the dog, she looked into the woods and smelt a sweet blossom breeze and heard a faint hum. Kirsten bets that Caro had found a bee tree and suddenly gets excited. Peter is confused; what was good about a bee tree? A bee had just stung Caro! Kirsten explains that bees meant honey, which Mama could use to make treats like cookies and cakes. Kirsten tried to talk calmly, but she grew more and more excited at the thought of the tree. The honey could be sold to Mr. Berkhoff, and they could get enough money for the things they needed, like a saw for Papa or new boots for Lars.
Peter, excited by the news, is eager to get the honey, but Kristen points out they needed to find the tree first. It had to be close by if they could hear the humming and Caro got stung. Kirsten whispers if they could find the honey, they'd make their parents so proud. Peter wants to look for the tree, but Kirsten tells Peter to stay behind and look after Caro. He tells Kirsten how Mama told them to be careful, but Kirsten assures him she would only look.
Kirsten, following the sound and smell, goes through the raspberry bramble and find a clearing where the bee tree was. Kirsten felt like she had found a treasure; they had to get that honey, and she was determined to be the one to do it. As Kirsten studied the bee tree, she noticed claw marks on the tree and bear prints in the sand. Kirsten backed away slowly, recalling her parent's warning about bears, but she didn't notice any signs they were any still around. Relieved, Kirsten starts brainstorming how she could collect the honey. Papa had done some bee keeping in Sweden, and she recalled he had used smoke and wore a bee veil to collect the honey. Papa had brought his bee veil with him to America, and kept it in the barn. Kirsten marks a nearby tree with 'K B Tree', officially claiming it as hers and no one else's.
Kirsten returns to Peter and tells him the good news. Peter says they should tell Papa, but Kirsten says no, that she found the tree herself and she could get the honey herself. He tries to object, but she shoved her hands into her waist like Mama did when she wanted their strict attention, and asks if Peter was afraid. Peter admits he was, and bets that Kirsten was too. Kirsten boasts that she was braver then Peter, and Peter reminds Kirsten how Mama said bravery was sometimes another word for foolish.
Kirsten grabs Peter by the shoulders, telling him if he didn't want to help her, he at least had to keep it a secret while she planned, or else she would tell their parents he hadn't kept an eye on Caro. Peter nods, and Kirsten makes him promise out loud. Peter whispers yes, and Kirsten is pleased, saying how everyone was going to be so proud of her.
Chapter Two: In the Berry Patch
Kirsten and Peter help Anna and Lisbeth pick raspberries for Mama and Aunt Inger to make preserves. Lisbeth explains how they were going to sell the raspberry preserves to Mr. Berkhoff, as well as make pies for the 4th of July. Kirsten, unfamiliar with the holiday, asks Lisbeth to explain. Lisbeth explains it as the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed, reminding her how Miss Winston had read it out loud at school once. Anna explains that they would all go to town to sell goods, and on the 4th of July they'd have a parade, games, and fireworks.
Peter is excited about the games, but Kirsten was more interested in the mention of selling goods. Lisbeth explains that everyone brought goods into town on the 4th of July to trade and sell; that's how she and Anna got their straw hats. It sounded like the perfect time for Kirsten to sell her honey, but she only had 5 days left to gather it.
Kirsten decided to sneak away from the group to check on the bee tree, which she knew was nearby. As Kirsten crawled through the bramble, she heard a snuffle. She stopped and saw that there was a bear cub to the side of her. This was the first real-life bear Kirsten had ever seen and as she watched the cub swat at a branch, she thought how it looked like a big puppy. Kirsten decided she had nothing to be afraid of, thinking it was a good thing the bear was here and not after her bee tree. The cub is suddenly startled and runs off, and Kirsten hears Lisbeth calling out for her.
Kirsten crawls out, claiming she thought the berries would be thicker in this area. Kirsten trips and spills her raspberries bucket. As she collects the berries, she tells Lisbeth how she saw a bear cub, but her footprints had scared it away. Lisbeth is shocked by the news and tells Kirsten to leave the berries. If a bear cub was here, it's mother could be nearby, and she could chase after them. Kirsten isn't as worried, saying how she found the bear cub cute and she had only looked at the bear. Lisbeth reminds Kirsten that cute or not, the bear cub was still a wild animal and it's mother would chase after them if she thought they were hurting it's cub.
The two girls leave, but Kirsten thinks how nothing could keep her from that honey, not even bears. Still, she was happy the only bear she saw by the tree was a small one.
Chapter Three: Bears!
The next day, as soon as she was alone, Kirsten went to grab Papa's bee veil and a syrup bucket. Kirsten figured for a torch, she could burn a piece of pinewood and ask Peter to hold it. Kirsten went up to Peter to ask for his help. When Peter asks her if she had permission, she explains she wanted to keep it a secret so she could surprise everyone. When Peter has his concerns, Kirsten insists that she knew what she was doing. She even offers Peter some of his own honey to sell so he could get a knife to whittle with like Lars. Peter liked the idea of the knife, but still looked worried. Kirsten tells Peter to meet her behind the barn in secret, and runs off before he had the chance to argue.
The two meet behind the barn, Kirsten complimenting Peter's bravery, and the two head off. Caro started following Peter and despite Kirsten's attempts to shoo him away, he stuck around. Peter asks if Caro could come alone, and Kirsten agrees, figuring he could chase away any bears. Peter is alarmed by the mention of bears, but Kirsten quickly sidesteps the issue and insists there was nothing to be worried about. Kirsten led the way to the Bee Tree and Peter is amazed at the sight of so many bees. Caro kept his distance, having learnt from it's past sting experience. Kirsten tells Peter he was to hold the torch while she gathered the honey. Peter asks if he could join her under the veil and she so long as he kept an arm out holding the torch with his sleeves rolled down.
As Peter rolled down his sleeves, Caro suddenly began to bark fiercely, ran into the bushes and chased out a bear cub. Kirsten, remembering what Lisbeth said about mother bears, tries to get Caro away from the cub, but the two animals start showing signs they were about to fight. Kirsten tells Peter to help her get Caro away, and Peter throws a stone at the cub to get it away. A deep growl came into the forest, and the mother bear came out to protect her cub. She flipped Caro away with a swift blow and Caro, upon landing, ran back home.
When the mother bear turned to lick her cub, Kirsten realized this was their one chance to get away. She grabs Peter's hand and tells him to climb the tree on the other side of the clearing. She helps him climb the tree and urges him to go on, but he helps her up the tree as well. The mother bear looked around the clearing, and Kirsten was afraid the bear would try to climb the tree they were in. The bear stopped 10 feet away from the tree they were hiding in and looked up through the branches. Peter closed his eyes, praying for god to make the bear go away, but Kirsten gazed at the bear, thinking how she and Peter wouldn't stand a chance against it. The bear sniffed the air, then returned to the cub and left the clearing.
Kirsten breathes a sigh of relief and Peter asks if they were still alive. Kirsten says the bear left, but didn't know if it would return, and the both of them are too scared to climb back down. Peter worries about Caro, but Kirsten assures him that he would be fine if he could still run after getting hit. Kirsten felt tears on her own cheek, worried about the bear returning and regretful of her carelessness. Suddenly they heard Papa yelling for the two of them in the distance. Peter and Kirsten quickly respond, Kirsten blowing her whistle.
Papa came into the clearing with his riffle, and Peter quickly scurries down. Kirsten remained in the tree, seeing how red her father's face was. Kirsten warns him about the bears, but Papa said while he had his rifle, the bears would have been scared off by all the noise. Papa helps Peter down the tree, but Kirsten was almost as afraid of Papa as she was of the bear. Papa explained that after Caro had come back home bleeding looking like he had been clawed by a bear, he figured the two might have met with bears as he knew the dog liked to follow them. He had followed the dog's blood trail into the forest until he had heard their shouts and whistle.
Papa helps Kirsten down from the tree and sternly asks her what they were doing. Kirsten explains her whole plan about the bee tree to Papa, and he asks if she knew bears had come by the tree. Kirsten murmurs that she had only seen a baby cub once, but Papa yells at her for being so foolish. Peter tries to stand up for Kirsten, saying how she saved his life and was very brave when she helped him up the tree. Papa takes bother their hands and says it wasn't brave to go near bears, it was dangerous.
Kirsten could barely hear herself apologize, that she thought the honey could help them get what they needed. Papa explains the real treasure were the bees themselves and if Kirsten had gone through with her original plan, she would have destroyed the bee colony, possibly ruin the honey, and gotten herself badly stung Papa tells Kirsten she was old enough to take care of herself and her brother, and she should have known better.
Kirsten was ashamed; her recklessness had put Peter in danger, got the dog clawed, made Mama and Papa worried, and almost destroyed the treasure she had found. Kirsten cried as she apologized and Papa says he felt Kirsten didn't need to be paddled as she was punished enough. Papa picks up the items, saying tomorrow he would return to bring the honey and bees back to the farm.
Chapter Four: Bringing Back the Bees
Kirsten and Peter watched Papa and Lars prepare the gear they needed to bring the bee colony back to the farm. Papa explains to Lars how they used the bellows to blow smoke inside the tree, and Peter whispers to Kirsten that her torch idea wouldn't have worked. Kirsten doesn't respond, still despondent over their encounter with the bears. Kirsten didn't like having these bad memories, and she softly says she should return to the clearing. Peter asks if Kirsten had a fever, but she explains she was afraid if she didn't go back to the woods today, she would never have the nerve to go back. Peter says he wouldn't go back, even with Papa and Lars around.
Kirsten goes down to Papa, offering to hold the bee veils for him along the way. Papa asks if Kirsten meant to come with him and Lars, and Kirsten nods. Papa hadn't smiled at her since yesterday, and Kirsten believed he was still angry at her. Lars is confused as he thought Kirsten was afraid of bears, but she explains she would be less afraid if she returned with the two of them. Lars grins at her, but Papa was stern. He reminded Kirsten that bees weren't a game and she would have to do exactly what she was told. Kirsten asks if Peter could come too, but Peter is quick to say he would stay home and look after Caro. Papa asks Peter to tell Mama Kirsten was going with them, and the three go to the woods.
At the bee tree, Papa marks a line in the ground and tells Kirsten not to take a single step closer. Kirsten could still easily remember the bears, so she watched Papa and Lars closely to keep her mind off of it. Papa and Lars saw down the tree, and Kirsten looks over her shoulder, knowing if there were bears nearby, the noise of the stump falling would be enough to scare them off. When the job was done and the three started to head back home, Kirsten took a moment to look around the clearing. She wasn't so frightened now, knowing that bears would always be in the forest, but if she was wise and careful, she would be fine.
At home, Mama and Peter were preparing the hot water and crocks to melt the bee combs and store the honey. Kirsten watched from a distance as Mama and Papa walked about how bountiful the bee colony was and how they'd have plenty of honey to sell. Kristen saw how happy Mama was, but she didn't feel as proud about the honey as she had expected to. Mama, as if she had read her mind, asks why Kirsten looked so sad. Kirsten blurts out that she thought she could get the honey for Mama herself and help get the items they needed. Kirsten starts crying as she realized she had nothing to be proud of after all. It had taken Papa and Lars to get the honey. All Kirsten did was put herself and Peter in danger and hurt Caro.
Mama hugged Kirsten, saying she was proud of her for finding the bee tree. Both she and Papa knew she wanted to help, and finding honey they could sell and a bee colony they could produce more honey for the future was a huge help. Mama tells Kirsten they had a lot of work to do to get the honey ready in time for the 4th of July, and they were going to continue to need Kirsten's help. Kirsten blinked at Mama through her tears, thinking how she wanted to be just like her when she grew up.
Papa wipes her tears, telling Kirsten she was a brave and smart girl, she just had to remember to be brave and careful at the same time. Papa's smile told her everything was alright.
Chapter Five: The Best Basswood Honey
Anna tells Kirsten the wagons were ready to go into town, and Kirsten joins the rest of her family. As they began to move, Caro started to chase and bark after the wagon, wanting to join them. Peter and Kirsten ask Papa if they could bring in along, but Papa is concerned about the still-recovering Caro getting into a fight with the other dogs in town. Kirsten promises to put a rope leash on him and keep him close. Papa, figuring two children should be able to manage one puppy, allows Caro to tag along. As Caro settled onto Kirsten's lap, she promises the dog that she'd look after him.
As they reached Maryville and began to unpack, Mr. Berkhoff stepped out to greet the family and look over their goods. Aunt Inger takes charge in promoting their wares, good at making a bargain. Mr. Berkhoff doesn't appear excited by their wares, saying his price really depended on what they wanted from the store. Mama and Inger are quick to say they wanted cloth, and Mama adds that Lars needed new boots. Mr. Berkhoff glances at Lars, commenting how he had grown a foot since last he saw him. He asks Lars if he had brought anymore of his wood carvings to sell as a lady in town had asked about it. Lars, not used to praise, blushes and says he did bring some.
Peter whispers to Kirsten, asking if he should ask Mr. Berkhoff if he could get a knife so he could learn to carve like Lars. Kirsten pinches his arm, saying they shouldn't be thinking about extra things when they may not even have enough money to buy what they need. Peter is about to object, then shushes himself, knowing just as well as Kirsten did that other items took priority.
Inger shows off the beeswax and honey last, two items that get Mr. Berkhoff excited at their potential value. He asks where they got such sweet honey, and Papa tells him Kirsten had sniffed out the honey herself. Mr. Berkhoff smiles at Kirsten, telling her this honey would really be worth something, but Kirsten felt too worried to smile back. Mr. Berkhoff invites the women to look inside his store while he settled accounts, and Kirsten and Peter join them inside.
Mama and Inger looked at the cloth, Anna looks at the candy display, and Lisbeth checks out the lace. Peter says it wouldn't hurt if he went to look at the knives, and Kirsten urges him to pretend he could have any knife he wanted. Kirsten looked at the straw hat, thinking how if she could have anything in the store, it would be this hat. Papa's voice boomed from behind her, asking if Kirsten's sunbonnet wasn't warm enough for her. Kirsten knew he was teasing, but still blushed, knowing better to ask for items they couldn't afford.
Kirsten insists she was only pretending and this hat wouldn't have fit her, but Papa encourages her to try it on anyway. He puts it on her head, telling Kirsten she deserved a special treat. He was worried they wouldn't earn enough money, but Kirsten's honey and beeswax had earned them enough and more. He states Kirsten and Peter could choose one item each for themselves, news that delights Kirsten so much she couldn't speak. Papa asks if she wanted the straw hat, and Kirsten nods.
As Kirsten and Papa admire her new hat in the mirror, Mama approaches saying that it needed some decoration and puts some ribbon and cherries on it. All three smile at the arrangement in the mirror, until Anna announces that the parade was starting. Papa tells Kirsten to go on, that a girl needed a straw hat on a day like this. Kirsten thanks him, and she joins Peter and Caro to watch the parade.
Looking Back: America Outdoors in 1854
Discusses how people spent time outdoors in pioneer America. Topics covered:
- The dependency that pioneers had on the wilderness, including what they took from nature and why they had wanted to control the wilderness.
- Weather troubles that forced many pioneers to try to work their own lands.
- Typical farm chores that children would do around the farm, including setting traps for small animals and gathering eggs.
- The decision for pioneers to spend most of their time outdoors to stay cool, even though they slept inside because they feared wild animals.
- Frontier clothing styles that didn't help with keeping their wearers cool during the summer.
- What a pioneer family would do during a trip to town, which was considered as close to a summer vacation as possible to them.
Items associated with Kirsten Saves The Day
- ↑ Pg 19, "But you could practice to run faster, Peter!" Anna said. "There are five more days until the Fourth."