PIONEER SUMMER by Deborah Hopkinson


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Age Range: 6 - 10
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Hopkinson (Bluebird Summer, 2001, etc.) tells the engaging saga of a pioneer family’s move to Kansas in her first foray into Ready-for-Chapters reading. Charlie and Ida Jane are moving from Massachusetts, where their parents and other abolitionists are trying to tip the balance against slavery in the region. Mr. Keller’s reassuring voice tells his children (and the child reader) about the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act without burdening them with excessive historical details. Charlie, a quiet, thoughtful boy, who loves to collect items from the natural world, is not a stereotype, nor is he a 21st-century transplant. Ida Jane is not a quiet, long-suffering daughter who dutifully cooks and quilts in the background. The children wrestle with their parents’ abolitionist philosophies as they wrangle with their little sister Sadie, who is quite a handful. Hopkinson’s gift is her ability to weave little details into a story: Charlie’s old dog Danny and grandfather are both too old for the trip; a minor character explains riverboat life; Mr. Keller has a brush with cholera; the job of building a house and putting in crops is much more challenging than the children would ever have thought; and the ever-present big sky draws them together and keeps them connected. While most young children have been introduced to the facts of the Civil War, slave life, and the Underground Railroad, many are unaware of the enormous changes that were taking place in the Midwest at the time. This superb story will whet their appetites for future news of the Keller family as they find their place in “Bleeding Kansas.” (author’s note) (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-84349-6
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Aladdin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2002


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