100 Best Books for Children ~ Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, was published in 1847, and is Number 74 on The Hundred Best Books for Children.

Longfellow was often referred to as “the children’s poet.” But in this selection he retells a story he heard from his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The poem was apparently a difficult one for Longfellow to write. He researched the history of the Acadians and the British expulsion of these French speaking people from modern-day Nova Scotia. The Acadians were neutral during the conflict of the French and English, but when they refused to take up arms against the French they were asked to leave the land they had cultivated for over 150 years. Although scattered “far and wide,” many of the refugees ended up in Louisiana forming what we think of as the Cajun culture.

In the reigns of George II of England and Louis XV of France there was much fighting between the two countries. Some of the fighting took place on North-American soil, and there occurred one of the saddest events that history has to record.

In a pleasant little valley near the sea, in Acadie (the land we now call Nova Scotia), there dwelt perhaps 10,000 French farming folk, loyal to their king in Paris, simple devout, home-loving souls. When Acadie came into English hands, through the fortunes of war, these simple folk were unable to understand how such a thing could be.

Many times they were ordered to take an oath of allegiance to their new king, the English king; and always they refused. English patience wore thin, and it was even suspected that some of the Acadians were secretly working to bring back French rule in the land. They were God-fearing people, and the English believed that if they could be induced to take the oath of allegiance they would keep it faithfully. When finally it appeared that they could never be induced to swear obedience, the English governor determined to rid himself of these stubborn souls and to stock the land with loyal settlers of British blood.

“Evangeline: The Story of a Faithful Heart,” The Book of Knowledge

Evangeline tells the tale of a fictional couple separated on their wedding day.

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean

Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

The leading men met at the church and learned they and their families must leave on ships that lay in harbor to be exiled forever. Many families were torn apart in the confusion. Many were not reunited for years, some never coming together again. And that is the case with Evangeline and Gabriel. Evangeline trails after Gabriel, but is always only a few days behind him.

After many long years of wandering, Evangeline, now an older woman becomes a Sister of Mercy devoting herself to the poor and ill. It is through a time of sickness and plague that she and Gabriel are reunited as he lay dying.

All was ended now, the hope and the fear and the sorrow,

All the aching of the heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing,

All the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!

And as she pressed once more the lifeless head to her bosom,

Meekly she bowed her own, and murmured, “Father, I thank thee!”

Evangeline was the first of a series of epic poems by Longfellow. Others include The Courtship of Miles Standish and Hiawatha.

The poem was quite successful. It was read, memorized, and recited in schools. There was a tourist industry that built up around it. And it became the basis for many other works of fiction. Longfellow once said, “‘Evangeline’ is so easy for you to read, because it was so hard for me to write.”

Free eBook

There are several versions available for children:

The Children’s Longfellow

The Children’s Own Longfellow

There are also versions that have notes and background. One of our favorites is the Pocket Classics series by Macmillan. We have several of these on the shelf. This contains background on Longfellow, the Acadians, poetry analysis, and more.

  • Read the poem out loud.
  • Older students can write a scene or the entire story as prose.
  • Copy favorite passages into a copybook.
  • Learn more about the Acadians. (The last book above will help.)
  • Study one of Longfellow’s other poems (see below).
  • Create an author page for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (along with the other authors in our series).

Additional Resources

The Land of Evangeline: The Authentic Story of Her Country and Her People
Includes background and illustrations of the places.

The Wanderings of Evangeline
Map from the National Park Service.

Free History Studies: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Free History Studies: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
More about Longfellow with more of his works from our free history studies.

Longfellow selections from our Online Poetry Anthology:

Author Notebooking Pages {Free Download}
Use this free set to create an author notebook for our 100 Best Books for Children series.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

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