The Day They Gave Babies Away

Summary

Christmas of 1868 finds the six Eunson children orphans. The eldest, Robbie, must fulfill the promise he made to his dying mother and find homes for his five siblings.

Review

A touching account of the struggles of a 19th century Wisconsin family. On December 23rd, Mamie Eunson summons young Robbie to her bedside and charges him with finding good homes for his five younger siblings. Early Christmas morning Robbie sets out and, with the help of his brothers, fulfills his promise. The story is a tender and well written must read.

Details

  • Author: Dale Eunson
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 13, 1991)
  • Reading Age: Ages 9+
  • Mass Market Paperback 81 pages

What You Need to Know

  • Role Models/Authority Figures – Robbie’s parents, Robert and Mamie Eunson, run a firm but loving household. When Robert dies, twelve-year-old Robbie steps in as “man of the household.” Throughout the second half of the book, families lovingly take in the five Eunson children.
  • Violence – At age two, Robbie beats up the three-year old boy, John Bradley, who lives across the street. When Mr. Bradley storms over the Eunson household, Robert swings at him, and knocks him out. Robert Eunson dies of diphtheria, “on the fourth night of his illness he choked to death.” (28) Mamie Eunson contract typhoid and dies. The scenes are startling in their brevity. Just before going their separate ways, Robbie and Jimmie fight. “They didn’t know why they had fought, but they were glad they had. For a few moments, they were small boys again, small boys who had fought for the reasons small boys fight. The scuffle had cleared the air and momentarily eased their burden.” (68-69)
  • Sexual Content – None
  • Language – “Jeezlum God,” he’d say (his profanity was constant, picturesque, and strangely innocent)” (3), “hell’s fire” (4), damned (12)
  • Consumerism – None.
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – We learn Kirk, later in life “takes to drink.”
  • Religion – “He kept saying”By God!” over and over again, not like a curse, but as if it were by God’s grace that the child had survived.” (26)
  • Other – This is a true story written by Robbie Eunson’s son, Dale. The movie “All Mine to Give” (1957) is loosely based on this book.
  • Awards