Classical Childrens Books

Calico Bush

Use the Calico Bush Unit Study to make the novel by Rachel Field come alive.

row of calico bush flowers
calico bush lesson plans calico bush unit study page

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Calico Bush is the story of Marguerite, a girl who lived in Maine in 1743. This book is classified as historical fiction. Marguerite and the other people living in the story are fictitious, meaning the author made them up. But the setting and the environment they lived in were intentionally written as they may have occurred in history.

Calico Bush Unit Study

Activities are by Chapters: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring

Unlike other unit studies where you read the unit study notes after reading a chapter, we encourage you to read the unit study questions first. It will help you answer the questions.


As an introduction, students will mark these events on the timeline: row of calico bush flowers


This first chapter is the longest. You may wish to break it into three readings:

Chapter Activities

Character List
Students develop a list of characters. A list of all names is provided, and they can jot notes to keep everyone in the large family straight.

Round Characters
Many stories have characters that are either all good or all bad. These are called 'flat characters.' A round character is more interesting. This is a person who has good and bad qualities. (Doesn't everyone?) In this story, Dolly is a round character. There are things you may like or dislike about her. Make some notes about your impression of her in the space provided.

Begin the list of some of the things Marguerite has lost. It includes tangible things (like her family) and more abstract things (her name, identity, language and culture.)

Students add to this list each chapter.

Reading Comprehension
Multiple choice reading comprehension questions are scattered throughout the Calico Bush Unit Study.

new england map

The Journey
The map allows the students to visualize the distance and location of the family's journey from Massachusetts to Maine.

Do an internet search to find Mount Desert Island, or Isledes Montes Deserts in French.

Massachusetts or Maine?
Students use a "T" box to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the family's move to the wilderness of Maine.

Island or Coast?
Compare the advantages of living on an island or living on the coast during the years of the early settlement of Maine.

Marguerite's Grit
Grit is a vocabulary word that will be seen in each chapter. In addition to writing a sentence with their newly-learned word, students will keep a list of Marguerite's actions that demonstrated she "had grit."

row of calico bush flower and leaf

Calico Bush

Calico Bush is another name for Mountain Laurel and Sheep Laurel. There are a few activities to introduce the students to this plant:

row of calico bush flowers


Activities for the Fall Chapter of Calico Bush

Consider the reason the author chose the four seasons as the titles of the chapters.

Meet the Neighbors
There are a lot of names, but only three other families in the community. Learn who these people are who are ready to help their new neighbors.

The Log Cabin
Draw a diagram and write a description of the new log cabin. What would it be like to make a log cabin from your own trees?

leafless tree

The French and the British
The French and Indian War did not occur until 12 years later, but kids can see the tensions are mounting. Learn to use context clues to understand the historical setting.

Marguerite is mystified by the process of grafting; an process Caleb takes for granted.

Describe grafting. What would you graft into this tree?

Implied Meaning
When Marguerite finds a cave in the woods, she is extremely frightened. Several details are given, and the reader must draw his or her own conclusion of the implied meaning.

Implied meaning is discussed, and a simple example helps students learn how to connect the dots from what is written and what the author wants them to know.

row of calico bush flowers


Calico Bush: Activites for 3rd Chapter

Marguerite's Dance
What were the different reactions to Marguerite's dance? How did that make her feel?

Multiple Choice
Reading comprehension question regarding the neighbor's assistance.

Implied Meaning
What is the implication about Pumpkin? What happened to him? What leads you to that conclusion?

Discussion questions:

Discussion questions can focus on the children's reaction to the baby's death as well as Marguerit's roll in the family.

Character Development

Continue analyzing the characters and what we learn about them.
New Frontier
Does this story remind you of the first winter of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620? Do you think the first settlers in all new lands had similar difficulties in their first winter? Think of some similarities and some differences.

Four Seasons
Artists sometimes do paintings of the four seasons. It could be of one plant or of an entire village. Find an example of this kind of art work. If you were an artist and were going to do a four season painting of the Sargent's farm, what would you include? Perhaps you would like to do a four seasons sketch of a calico bush or other plant.

row of calico bush flowers


Chapter Activities for last chapter of Calico Bush

Maple Sugar Spring is a time of new beginning and collecting maple syrup is often one of the first events of spring. The thaw in the weather lets the syrup start running in the trees. Why is everyone so excited and happy about the maple sugar?

Consider bringing in some real maple syrup vs artificial maple syrup for a taste test.

More Problems and Challenges
What new problems surface in this chapter? List them. Consider what life on a farm is like in Spring.

While Dolly had rejected the idea of letting her children participate in a Mayday Maypole, it ended up saving their lives.

Watch two or three Maypole dances on YouTube. Which do you like best? Which can you imagine Marguerite doing?

Do you think the neighbors might understand from the Maypole that there may be value in keeping some of the traditions of the Old World?

Indian Culture
Throughout this book we have considered how Marguerite felt when her language and culture were rejected. Was the settler's rejection of the French culture similar to their rejection of the Indian culture?

Compare the hostilities with these Indians to the friendship between the Pilgrims and Indians in Plymouth. What might have made it easier or harder for the settlers and Indians to get along?

Character Lists Remember to add Marguerite's losses, and heroic deeds to the lists on page 3 and 11. Also consider Dolly's character from her behavior and it to the lists.

We are learning that Dolly has some important good points as well as weak points in her life. This is important to Marguerite's future.

What Has Marguerite gained?
Discussion Question: We have talked about Marguerite's losses through the book. She also found out she has gained some things. What are they?

Marguerite's Decision
The Sargent's offered to let her off of the contract so she could take a ship heading towards French Canada. This would be her only opportunity to be among her own culture and language again.

Marguerite had to make a very important decision. What did she decide? Would you have decided the same as she did?

row of calico bush flowers

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Download the Calico Bush Unit Study for STUDENTS

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Download the Calico Bush ANSWER KEY

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All activities are on a printer-friendly download.

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