Moving the Millers' Minnie Moore Mine Mansion: A True Story
“integrates frontier history, solid writing, and brilliant illustrations and mixes that together with imaginative fun, quirky problem-solving resourcefulness, big picture ambition and human perseverance.”
Illustrator Júlia Sardà must have had a ball creating the intricate and dynamic scenes portraying the true story of Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion. With a handful of impressive illustrative credits already to her name, this well-established international artist is a name to follow.
In Sardà’s presentation, the subdued earthy colors work visual wonders and allow the focus to be on posture, texture, action, and expression. There is much energy and movement in this story and the images keep a masterful balance and pacing. This is a complicated story, which the illustrations make much easier to follow.
With the title of the story, Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion, being such an alliterative mouthful, author Dave Eggers has taken a clever approach to working the storyline as a buildup to the elaborate title. Word by word, the story takes shape with the foundational word: mine.
Long ago (in the 1870s) in a land far away (Idaho), prospectors wandered the land looking for gold and silver in the hills. One day a playful and energetic dog was digging around a gopher hole and happened to find silver instead. Men came in behind the dog and started digging the hole deeper until it became a mine.
The dog’s owner, and the man who claimed the mine, was John “Minnie” Moore. Hence the hole which the dog discovered and which the men subsequently worked into a silver mine was dubbed the Minnie Moore Mine. Minnie Moore Mine was incredibly productive and well known even across the ocean to England and attracted a particular man who was hoping to become a wealthy miner.
Enter Englishman Henry Miller into the scene. Miller makes an offer on the mine and turns it into an even richer silver producer. Now, Miller’s name is added to the title: Miller’s Minnie Moore Mine. Miller, now a rich man, decides it’s time for a wife and family and goes about the business of getting married. While his new young wife Annie is off exploring Europe, Miller builds her a gigantic house: a mansion. The title expands to Miller’s Minnie Moore Mine Mansion. And with a family of three Millers living there, the possessive apostrophe shifts to: Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion.
By and by the family lives and thrives in their mansion home along the river in the wild blue paradise of Idaho until one day Henry Miller dies. Miller’s wife and son come up with a plan to raise pigs to support themselves but the town hates that idea because, well, pigs stink. Widow Annie decides to relocate the house to a place that approves of pigs and the second half of the story kicks off.
Moving a house is no easy feat. Especially a Victorian mansion with multiple levels and many many rooms. The workers Widow Annie hires approach the project with an engineering mindset. Brick by brick, log by log and day by day they roll the house foot by foot four miles down the road. It takes them one month to do this and all the while Widow Annie, her son and their cook are living inside the house.
The illustration of this tilting house moving scene—the log-rolling workers, the tea-sipping widow, the pipe-smoking cook, the pig parade following the food scrap-tossing son—is hilarious. There is laundry flying off the lines on the side of the second floor, a potted plant teetering of the second story window, ropes secured at critical points on several corners of the house leading to tow horses, crows circling the weathervane flag, and smoke pluming out the chimney. This truly must have been quite the drama, but Widow Annie looks as calm as can be.
With this series of house moving illustrations the title is finally set to: Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion. And it all makes sense in the end. Everyone lives happily ever after in the moved mansion, except, of course, the pigs.
Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion is a great tongue twister title and a unique, bizarre true story. It integrates frontier history, solid writing, and brilliant illustrations and mixes that together with imaginative fun, quirky problem-solving resourcefulness, big picture ambition and human perseverance. Surely this is more than meets the eye-catching cover; nonfiction readers will be pleasantly surprised.