RETURN TO THE ISLAND

This third installment in Whelan’s Island Trilogy portrays 19th-century daily living and the tension between the Native Americans and white settlers. Picking up where Farewell to the Island left off, Mary is running the family farm without her father, now deceased. Two men in Mary’s life strive for her attention. James, who has pursued her from England, still wishes for her hand, while her childhood friend, White Hawk, shows his affection in a more steadfast way. White Hawk divides his time between helping Mary on the farm and assisting his tribe. There is great tension between the Sauk Indian tribe and the American Fur Co., whose proprietors, though they brought commerce to the island of Michilimackinac, use unsavory means to monopolize trapping. As winter takes hold, White Hawk finds he must return to his people; starvation is imminent and he must help them find an alternative to selling their land to white men. It is Mary who conceives of the plan that brings food to the Indians. James eventually finds his true love elsewhere, and Mary and White Hawk wed. Mary opens the first school for girls while White Hawk continues to assist his people. Mary’s romance with White Hawk comes off lukewarm, and the narrative never has much momentum. Still, for Mary’s fans and those wishing to gain a unique insight into this short but devastating time in Native American history, this is a worthwhile read. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028253-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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WESTWARD TO HOME

JOSHUA’S DIARY

Another installment in this year’s new “My America” series, this is the fictional diary of Joshua, a young boy whose family joins a wagon train to Oregon in 1848. Joshua’s tale offers language simple enough for emerging readers, but pulls few punches regarding the harsh realities of the westward pioneer journey. Joshua can hardly contain his excitement at the prospect of the journey. His diary begins as his parents and extended family make the difficult decision to uproot their lives. On the trail he experiences dust, heat, and fear, along with the births of babies and the deaths of others from cholera, accidents, and Indian attack. Joshua also finds his cousin, Rachel, dead one morning, the victim of an accidental hanging during the night. The story’s not all tragedy; there is a nice balance with more positive experiences, such as Joshua’s childhood friendships along the trail. His grandfather helps him kill a buffalo, and he saves his little sister Becky from drowning when she falls into a rushing river. Hermes sparks her tale with a budding romance for Joshua as he copes with the grief, anger, and charity of the adults in the wagon train. Decent historical fiction aimed at appealing to the reader who would enjoy the sense of reading a diary to learn more about the harsh realities and triumphs of America’s westward pioneers. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-11209-5

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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SOLDIER MOM

Mead (Junebug and the Reverend, 1998, etc.) wants readers to know that war is hell, not only for the soldiers, but for the families they leave behind. Both Jasmyn, 11, and her single mother, Paula, are horrified to learn that Paula has been called to serve overseas in the Persian Gulf War. Totally unprepared and with scant resources, Paula has only two days to arrange suitable care for her daughter and Jas’s half-brother, baby Andrew. With no other realistic option, she leaves Andrew’s immature father, Jake, in charge. Feeling abandoned, Jas is also overwhelmed as her expanded childcare responsibilities infringe on her all-important commitment to basketball. She grapples with Jake’s domestic incompetence, emotional unpredictability, and obvious impatience with her. Mead tells an absorbing story, fairly and sympathetically delineating the dilemmas of Paula and Jake, two imperfect adults in a difficult situation. Nevertheless, her true compassion is reserved for the blameless, powerless Jas, who has no choice but to cope with the decisions of the adults around her. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-37124-5

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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