Who knew climbing a tree could be as magical as climbing a beanstalk? Henna Steward certainly didn’t—until the seven-year-old moved to Butterfield Farm with her family and discovered the oak to end all oaks.
While exploring its odd occupants, Henna is transported, along with her twelve-year-old sister and eight-year-old cousin, to a strange, far-away world. Once there, they must survive a perilous journey and The Dreaded One’s evil hordes. They must . . . Or they will never come home.
What happens when climbing a tree takes you to a strange new world from which you may never return? The Legend of Butterfield Farm begins.
A humorous middle-grade fantasy adventure of about 315 pages.
“What a fun time I had reading The Legend of Butterfield Farm. Wildly imaginative and yet told beautifully, which is so hard to do. I loved the cast of characters, with Henna, Holly, Gordon and their strange but lovable pals… This is a book for kids of all ages by a master storyteller in fine form.” –John Truby, author of The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Story Teller.
“The story is hilarious, well thought out, and overall it is amazing. I was actually laughing out loud in spots…I would recommend it for kids from 7 to 99…and without giving away any spoilers, Narnia fans – READ THIS!” –Ann, Amazon Reader Review.
OVER THE YEARS, Mr. Butterfield had seen his share of really strange things on Butterfield Farm. Like his first jaw-dropper the summer of 1952. He was a whippersnapper in 4-H preparing Bessie for the Nelson County Fair when she gave birth to a two-headed calf. It won two blue ribbons—one for each head.
In 1967, Mrs. Butterfield created quite a stir and made the front page of The Nellysford Sentinel when she harvested a deformed turnip that was a dead ringer for President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
And he never forgot the Halloween of 1998 when a knock at his door revealed a terrifying ghoul. Not a trick-or-treater in costume and makeup, but rather a scary neighbor who came to his door with big bloody chunks missing from both ears and the business end of a pitchfork stuck in his butt, the result of a moonshine-fueled hoedown gone terribly wrong.
Still, none of the bizarre things he had faced in his seventy years in Blundell Hollow could hold a candle to this.
The orange sun had just risen, and patches of fog clung to Mr. Butterfield’s forty acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was on a walk with his good friend and only companion nowadays, his old hound dog Rusty. Every morning they took the same well-worn path. Out the back door of their two-story log home, they headed toward the mountains that dramatically rose from the far side of the farm. They went around the apple storage barn and cider mill, skirted the trout pond formed by beavers, and followed a clear mountain stream for about a quarter mile to the end of their big orchard.
Usually, they would then crest a hill, cross a meadow of wildflowers, and turn around to head back to their kitchen for breakfast.
However, on this fateful spring morning as Mr. Butterfield entered the meadow of yellow buttercups, just ahead of him, partially hidden by the mist, something big blocked his path—something that took his breath and froze him in his tracks. It was a monster of gigantic size.
“What the…,” said the startled old farmer.
Rusty barked like crazy and lunged toward the intruder, risking everything to protect his master.
The weathered farmer could not believe his eyes. Apparently, neither could Rusty; he was still in the middle of a barking fit over the mysterious trespasser.
The mist cleared a bit—the sun now shining on them from above the ridgeline to the east—and the old man could better see just how massive the tree was.
Yes, a tree set off all this fear and commotion.
An ancient oak loomed in front of them. By far, it was the biggest tree Mr. Butterfield had ever seen. The trunk’s girth was incredible—bigger around than the late Mrs. Butterfield’s gardening shed—a good twenty feet wide, at least. It rose so high in the sky they could not see the treetop; its tallest branches were hidden by a cloud.
Now granted, trees are normally not dangerous. Except for those mean trees in The Wizard of Oz that picked their own apples and threw them at Dorothy. And, of course, the trees that fall during big storms and crush cars and houses.
But this tree was not throwing anything at them, and there was no storm. So why were the old man and his dog so bent out of shape about it, no matter how large and imposing it was? After all, trees had been Mr. Butterfield’s livelihood his whole life. They had literally provided a roof over his head and food on his table.
Yes, typically trees had been very good to him. But typically, they stayed in one place. Which brings us to the frightening part—this towering oak was not here yesterday. Mr. Butterfield and Rusty had never seen this tree before.
“Holy moly! Where’d this . . .? How’d this . . .?” the old man blurted as he came out of his stupor and backed away. “Rusty, come here. Get away from that. Come. Right now!”
But Rusty ignored him. The agitated hound dog was intent on battling the giant. He barked and growled as if their lives depended on it, getting closer and closer to it with each daring lunge and ferocious bark. Finally, he got close enough to sink his teeth into one of the huge surface roots anchoring the tree to the rich Virginia soil. It appeared he was on his way to an easy victory.
But before he could take another aggressive bite out of the gigantic intruder, the tree started to vibrate and shudder.
Rusty stopped growling. He tucked his tail between his legs, and the hairs on his back stood on end.
Horrible sounds came out of the tree. From deep within, it creaked and snapped, then growled and grumbled. The ground started shaking and heaving, as if there was an earthquake. Twigs, rocks, and chunks of sod shook loose and bounced around the area as the monstrous tree roots released their grip from the land.
The roar got even louder as the immense oak broke free and slowly lifted a few feet off the ground. Then it crept toward the now whining Rusty and the horrified farmer. The color drained from the old man’s face.
“Oh no,” said the reeling Mr. Butterfield, grabbing his chest with one hand as if he was having a heart attack, while waving the other wildly as he attempted to keep his balance. This only worked for a few seconds before he stumbled and fell backwards onto the unstable ground. Rusty could not stay on his feet either. He cowered alongside his fallen master.
The tree continued hovering, making horrific sounds, and coming closer to them.
The old man thought for sure they were goners. He knew it would crush them if it got over them and dropped.
Rusty yelped, and Mr. Butterfield grunted in pain. Over and over, they bounced off the ground and crashed down, the moving earth preventing them from getting up. Dirt and debris bombarded them as the tree got closer and closer.
“Ooooostlefishgooooey . . . muddleflewdulleeema,” and other senseless noises came from the old man as he finally managed to scurry backwards on all fours like a crab, barely staying ahead of the mighty beast.
Then, when he and Rusty came to a steep incline, they rolled and tumbled their way down the hill toward his orchard, finally coming to a crashing stop at the base of a blooming apple tree.
Still dizzy and staggering, he managed to get back on his none-too-stable feet and check on his friend. “You all right, Rusty?” Not waiting for his hound’s reply, he told him, “Come on, boy. Let’s get out of here!”
They hightailed it toward their house as fast as the battered and limping seventy-year-old and his old dog could go. Too frightened to look back, he could still hear the tree’s awful sounds behind him.
When they finally made it to their home, he slammed the thick, solid, safe door behind them. Now all he could hear were the frenzied sounds of them gasping and panting for air. He was thankful to be alive. Or barely alive, to be exact.
The old farmer did not need any further prompting to retire and leave the farm right then and there. Using some old apple crates, he hurriedly packed a few of his most cherished things and threw them into the back of his truck.
He then planted a crudely handwritten sign in front of his farm on Blundell Hollow Road that read FOR IMMEDIATE SALE BY OWNER—CHEAP.
With Rusty waiting for him in the cab of his truck, Mr. Butterfield sadly took one last loving look at Butterfield Farm before getting behind the wheel and tearing off for somewhere far, far away from that terrible, terrible tree.