After a cholera epidemic in 1877 claims the lives of their parents, the three O’Toole children must travel through the dangerous Western frontier to their new home.
A night of murder and arson ravages the disease-riddled town of Great Bend, Kan., leaving 12-year-old Caleb and his 6-year-old sister, Tilly, witnesses to a brutal killing. Luckily, Henderson, a Civil War hero and ex-convict, intervenes, temporarily saving them from the dangerous Blackstone Gang. Unfortunately, the murderous brothers are only one of the many dangers awaiting the O’Tooles as they travel along the Oregon Trail to their aunt’s ranch in the Bitterroot. Sioux raiding parties, rattlesnakes and kidnappers all lie in wait for the siblings. The O’Toole children are quick studies, picking up equestrian, medical and gun-slinging skills as easily as they do friends. The fast-paced adventure serves up a hearty history lesson with side dishes of political, social and environmental commentary. Realistic and complicated characters give the familiar story of the pioneer’s journey fresh life. A rushed and confusing ending is only a minor misstep. Cameos by famous figures such as Touch the Clouds and Sitting Bull give authenticity to the O’Tooles’ journey.
A suspenseful adventure with heart. (Adventure. 8-12)