Review Contest -2004

Reviewers were asked to express their feelings about the book as a whole or to write about a theme, an event or a character.

2004- The Winners
Bonnie B., Wyoming
Northern Borders by Howard Frank Mosher is a book that I thoroughly
enjoyed. Mr. Mosher went into great detail to introduce us to Kingdom
County and to Austin Kittredge’s unique family
Did Mr. Mosher present the Kittredge family as believable people?
Absolutely. Everyone’s family has had relatives that carry similar
strengths, weaknesses, wisdom ad quirks that we saw in Austen’s family.
They were living in a very rural area, struggling more than many to
overcome the Depression that lingered longer in their lives. Each family
member had work that contributed to the good of the family. Events such
as a family reunion and the local county fair were highlights in an
otherwise difficult life.
Several members of Austen’s family had secrets from their pasts and
it was nice to see Austin accept those events as part of the family
history. He was amazed by details he learned about the family secrets
but accepting of them.
I was pleased to see the author include family squabbles within this
family. Perhaps Grandpa and Grandma Kittredge’s argument was extreme but
we see families with misunderstandings that seem blown out of proportion
but which are very real to the people it’s happening to.
I am pleased with the choice of Northern Borders as the next “Tale
of Three Counties” reading selection. I feel that we can all relate to
the people and events in this book.

Nancy E., Le Roy

Howard Frank Mosher has an unstoppable imagination coupled with a
great talent for writing that makes the people and places of Kingdom
County seem more like a work of non-fiction than fiction.
Mr. Mosher’s introduction has one undeniably hooked. From there he
takes us on a fabulous journey “sashaying through time to wonderful
places and rolling it all into one story of family love, hate and just
plain needing each other.
Austen Kittredge, that “confirmed and self-styled misanthrope” is a
grandfather every little boy should fear, yet loves so much. The
grandmother, Abiah, is the all-business grandmother who showed her love
in her own way. My apologies to my own grandparents that I never
appreciate you more.
Northern Borders has afforded me a great “mental vacation.” It
brings back memories of contending with my own Mrs. Earla Armstrong; and
although I never knew there was a name for it, I, too, was the recipient
of the Hungarian dead finger. I especially enjoyed remembering all the
Dutch rubs my dad would kiddingly give us. What a smile that gave me.
In conclusion, thank you, Mr. Mosher! You’ve not only jogged some
great memories but helped me trudge through the end of our winter season
knowing it doesn’t hold a candle to Lost Nation Hollow’s seven-month
winters, their snow spouts and their swirling snow twisters. I guess we
can count our blessings after all.

Meghan H., Perry
In the preface of Harold Frank Mosher’s book Northern Borders,
narrator Austen Kittredge III laments that the way of life of his hill
country grandparents has disappeared. Indeed lifestyles everywhere have
changed since the 1940s. But the spirit of adventure and independence
described in these tales can still be witnessed throughout our Western
New York communities.
Local readers will be struck by how much it seems this book could
have been written about us. Grandfather Kittredge’s resourcefulness will
remind you of your neighbor who fixes everything with baling twine and
duct tape. Young Austen’s eccentric relatives would fit right in with
the unique characters who populate our coffee shops. And the agriculture
countryside, the highly anticipated county fair, the hard-working
farming community and the fierce winters will make Western New York
readers feel right at home in Kingdom County, Vt.
All of the book’s events are seen through the eyes of Austen III,
who in 1948, at the age of six, goes to live with his grandparents and
the extended clan who populate Lost Hollow Nation township. Austen
experiences the best and worst the community has to offer–a one-room
schoolhouse, wilderness exploration, fantastic tales, farm chores. With
each chapter’s vivid account of a new adventure, readers come to better
understand the many forces that shape the character of a young adult.
All ages will find enjoyment and recognize something of themselves
or perhaps the community around them in Northern Borders.

Gilbert J., Wyoming
Howard Mosher’s Northern Borders offers a rich tapestry of
interesting characters. They are not all types you would necessarily be
comfortable with in real life but they are all fascinating as literary
inventions. Molded by their “frontier” environment, they are eccentric,
fiercely independent and unburdened by reverence for the law. The
bearded, irrepressible Whiskey Jack Kittredge, who possesses a flask, a
girlie magazine and the ability to “hurinate 50 yards at one whack” is
clearly the most outrageous in the novel. But all in the Kittredge clan
share the same streak and have their own inimitable quirks, tales and
Austen and Abiah Kittredge, whose marriage is known as the Forty
Year War, are the dominant characters. Each is haunted by unfulfilled
yearnings and has created an alternate world to pacify the ache: Austen
with his isolated hunting camp called “Labrador” and Abiah with her room
called “Egypt,” home to Ra, the Sphinx and various artifacts relating to
the land of the pharaohs. Their frustrations constantly boil over,
leading to ugly conflicts. But people in the Kingdom learn to accept
life as a battleground. Survival is their talent. Otherwise they could
not outlast minus 40 degree winters, failed crops and myriad
These characters are truly Dickensian: brusque, comic, outrageous,
inspiring and quite heroic in their passions as they confront the harsh
conditions life has dealt them. They are also hauntingly memorable and
expand our knowledge of what it is to be part of the human race.

Alice W., Wyoming
Howard Frank Mosher’s Northern Borders in the opening pages takes
the reader on a train bound for Kingdom County, Vt., with a precocious,
articulate six-year old. Young Austen Kittredge III, son of a widowed
headmaster in White River, Conn., wonders what it will be like to live
with his grandparents so far away.
The setting spans the 12 years before 1960 but we’re soon convinced
that the inhabitants of this Lost Kingdom are still living in a much
earlier era.
Within these northern borders, we observe the maturation of Austen
as he discovers how his tiny, wiry, resolute grandmother has coped over
the years with her equally stubborn husband. When life closes in, she
retreats to Egypt.
Grandfather’s mysterious, hard-headed, yet honorable ways are slowly
unfolded as the story progresses. We, too, as the grandson weaves the
story, realize that one must stand in a person’s hopes to understand his
We also meet a panoply of other skillfully depicted characters, such
as an outspoken, wayward uncle, big and little aunties, a Solomonesque
Judge Allen, and a Dickensian schoolmarm. We recognize the old
appearance/reality theme over and over as the protagonist and the reader
delves more deeply into the true underlying causes of the somewhat
mysterious dialogue and actions.
Finally we board another train with 18-year old Kittredge and his
72-year old grandfather toward Labrador, the land of snow, ice, floods,
swollen rivers, fires and ghosts. Mosher’s brilliant flowing imagery and
realistic dialogue are especially noteworthy in this last section. This
novel deserves a second read.

Other entries:
Wendy S., Medina

Northern Borders is a realistic, comforting version of “The
Walton’s.” A fictional work that is so close to reality that it is as
believable as it is entertaining. Austen Kittredge III is like many
other children in America who grow up under the influence and care of
their grandparents. He is a likable character that can be identified
with easily. Events that enrich the lives of Austin and the Lost Nation
Hollow people are much the same as most small towns but with a personal
side shown through Mosher’s writing that expresses a human connection
and draws the reader in.
The character development is extensive and surprising. The best
example is this is the elder Austen Kittredge. Throughout the novel he
is realistically straightforward and demanding of space and respect.
Although he is represented in most of the novel as having a flat,
one-dimensional personality, he becomes very multi-layered and
far-reaching in emotion, determination and passion with the unveiling of
his life before Lost Nation Hollow and the tremendous loss he endured.
When reading the entertaining events and personal thoughts, I
perceived a quiet and endearing idea from Mr. Mosher’s writing. In
reflection, Mr. Mosher writes about the effects on Austen, of living his
young life through his grandparent’s lives in the small northern town at
the beginning of modernization in America. This evokes thoughts of one’s
own childhood and in turn, the unintentional effects on the next generation.

Tally A., Bergen
This unique story is told by Austen “Tut” Kittredge who, when he was
6, went to live with his irascible but caring grandfather for whom he
was named and his tiny, intense dark-haired grandmother who held her own
against Tut’s grandfather.
There are many quirky twists and turns as Tut matures … Each
chapter is a tale in itself while being important to the understanding
and appreciation of the whole.
Janet L., Batavia
I have hiked in the mountains of New York State and at times the
scene being described in the book about Vermont brought back great
Northern Borders is a slow-moving novel, but then life in Lost
Nation was slow moving. The novel exemplified this very well. I enjoyed
reading about Vermont and Austen told a realistic story. It was as if he
was sitting down in my living room telling me his story.
Wendy S., Medina
When reading the entertaining events and personal thoughts, I
perceived a quiet and endearing idea from Mr. Mosher’s writing. In
reflection, Mr. Mosher writes about the effects on Austen, of living his
young life through his grandparent’s lives in the small northern town at
the beginning of modernization in America. This evokes thoughts of one’s
own childhood and in turn, the unintentional effects on the next

Eleanor S., Warsaw

I enjoyed Austen’s attitude toward his grandparents. He didn’t
question wiping the dishes and feeding the hens for gram and seemed to
enjoy her stories about the Egyptians! He also respected his grandpa and
listened to his every word, even if he couldn’t understand his old time
I enjoyed all the animals described in the story from the big gray
elephant to the two black snakes imported to catch the rats. … My
favorite was the “Arctic Snow Owl” who picked the laying hens out one by
one. When they were gone, he finished off the big rooster. Shortly after
that grandma finished him!

Florence W., Batavia

I became so fond of the boy whose father sent him to live with his
grandmother and grandfather …
The author’s evocations of the land and the extraordinary people of
this place made me want to find out more about them. They became so real
to me that I forgot this was a flight of imagination.

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