Exploring the Literary Frontier
Many young readers cut their reading teeth on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s collection of frontier stories based on her life and family. They begin with Little House in the Big Woods and continue into Little House on the Prairie and beyond. I found Caddie Woodlawn as a graduate student and enjoyed this story as well. I am thinking about other favorites that I read as a child or was introduced to as a scholar of young adult literature.
I am reminded that Gary Paulsen wrote quite a few more books than the perennial favorite Hatchet. Many of his books are set in the wild, but at least one series, The Tucket Saga is set in the old American West of the 1840s. Scott O’Dell, who most readers will recognize as the author of Island of the Blue Dolphins, also wrote several novels set in 19th century America. These books include: Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain, Sing Down the Moon and Streams to the River, Rivers to the Sea – a story of Sacajawea.
The book on the top of my list, however, is a novel by one of my college classmates, A. E. Cannon (I like it when I can connect myself with people who impressed me when we shared a class and have continued to do so with all of their life’s accomplishments—wife, mother, newspaper columnist, and young adult novelist.). Cannon’s Charlotte’s Rose is a novel that captures twelve-year-old Charlotte’s journey from Iowa to Utah with a handcart company along the Mormon trail. Cannon’s novel is a captivating tale of a young girl’s challenges as she helps push and pull her way across the prairie. In addition, readers get a glimpse of the Mormon migration, especially a sampling of what the 3,000 Mormon pioneers who used handcarts instead of wagons between 1856 and 1860 experienced. This will be the book I offer my granddaughters as they explore they Utah pioneer heritage. Thanks Ann, in time I will offer up, Amazing Gracie, Cal Cameron by Day, Spider-Man by Night, and The Shadow Brothers.
Steven T. Bickmore