Feb 20, 2012

The Quite Contrary Man: A true American Tale

The Quite Contrary Man by Patricia Rusch Hyatt
Illustrated by Kathryn Brown
Published by Abrams

     Before Abraham Lincoln sported his beard, there lived a man named Joseph Palmer.  Since he was a little boy, he just did things his own way and his mother wondered what would become of "her pigheaded son." He was a Quite Contrary Man.  During those days, people liked to look and act like each other, "which meant looking plain and acting proper." Women all wore their hear up in tightly twisted topknots and men shaved their faces bare. "No one dare to stand out from their neighbors." Except Joseph Palmer.
     Joseph Palmer dared to grow a beard.  And not just any beard! His beard "flowed from chin to belly and from elbow to elbow." When he walked around town, the wind would make his beard fly behind him and soon her earned the nickname of "Beard" Palmer. The townsmen considered him un-american.  But his family adored him; he was fun to be around, original, and stood by what he believed in.  One day, a group of townsmen tried to assault him to cut his beard and though Palmer fought them off, they ran to the judge and said they had been attacked by Palmer first.  The judged fined Beard Palmer more than earned on a year, so he refused to pay and was sent to jail for a whole year.  While in jail, Beard Palmer refused to shave and always found ways to defy what he considered unjust rules.  When his release date arrived, they gave him a bill for the food he had consumed, so he refused to leave the jail! You won't believe the solution the sheriff and jailer came up with.
     The Quite Contrary Man is a wonderful tale about man ahead of his time, who dared to stand up for civil liberties in a time when no one dared to be different.  The author's note at the end of the book offer the historical background and what happened with Beard Palmer later on in life.  I found myself wanting to know more about him and wished the book had kept going.  It can be used to open up great classroom discussions about civil liberties and civil disobedience.  Excellent addition to any classroom or non-fiction library.

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