by Ramsey County Historical Society, May 2022
a book for young readers
Christmas Day, 1876:
It's Lillie Belle's eleventh birthday.
Her parents give her a new diary.
How will she fill the pages?
Readers eight to eleven will make fast friends with Lillie Belle Gibbs, a young Minnesotan growing up in changing times. Both a farm girl and a Victorian girl, Lillie could dig potatoes, practice her penmanship, and pour tea in the farmhouse parlor— all on the same afternoon.
In the 1870s, Lillie's world was in transition, with towns, mills, and railroads drawing newcomers from far and wide. The Gibbs family was part of that history in the Saint Paul area. Author Terry Swanson, a Minnesota historian, used clues from the real-life Lillie's writings to create this historical fiction. Peggy Stern's charming ink and watercolor illustrations, found on almost every page, are also true to the times.
Swarms of grasshoppers are eating our crops and flying at us from all sides. I find them everywhere in the house.
I pull back the covers and find grasshoppers in my bed!
— Lillie Belle, April 26
Welcome to Lillie's World
Step back in time— about a century and a half— and meet Lillie Gibbs. As the youngest of four in a successful farm family, she had high standards to live up to. But she had her own opinions and a lively imagination.
Lessons in a one-room schoolhouse... barn and garden chores... projects with her best friend Minna... family and church gatherings... holidays and the state fair: these were part of Lillie's world in 1877. She tells all about it in the diary imagined in Grasshoppers in My Bed.
Another day above freezing, with mud puddles everywhere. This morning, I cleaned the coops and the chickens ran all over the yard. Even they are happy! —January 30
The last three days, the winds have howled. Tonight, we will all gather for popcorn and singing, and Abbie will play the melodeon. —March 9
Today, we worked the soil in Mother's kitchen garden and planted beans, carrots, cucumbers, and squashes. —May 9
Frank named our baby goat Birchard after our new president. He says Rutherford Birchard Hayes looks just like a goat. —May 14
Lightning struck our house last night. The entire house shook. Later, Father took us down to the cellar and showed us the scar on the wall the lightning had made— all the way into the ground. —June 29
As Mother and I walked through the prairie, dragonflies hovered all around us. They are magical . . . . if I watch them long enough, they seem to disappear. Then before I know it, they are back again. —September 29
The acorns have started to fall. I love hearing them bounce off the roof as I fall asleep at night. Frank rakes them up for the pigs. They are crazy for them!