The Children Who Lived in a Barn

Eleanor Graham’s children’s book from 1938 is an earlier “Home Alone” tale—a family of five children left to fend for themselves when their parents disappear in a plane accident. Sue’s the oldest at 13, and sets the whole family to rights doing the drudgery of house keeping plus cooking plus laundry plus going to school and keeping the books for the baker in exchange for stale bread. Bob’s 11 years old, then the twin boys, then youngest is Alice, at 7. They’re driven out of their house by a greedy landlord and find refuge in a farmer’s barn. The kids fix it up into a home and proceed to live as they can for a few months, the village sending a woman to check up on them and threatening to toss them all into an orphanage at the slightest sign of dirt or misbehavior. Fairly flimsy plot, quite unbelievable that the parents would leave, and also that the village wouldn’t do more for them. At the end, with orphanage threatening, Sue “goes on strike” for a day and wanders the countryside, meeting a journalist by chance to tell her story to the world. Parents (amnesia?) arrive shortly after.