A hardscrabble frontier girl finds happiness in hard work and compromise.
Jane Deming, age 11, has been single-handedly caring for her brother, Jer, since just after his birth two years ago. Papa died in the battle of Vicksburg; destitute, Jane's 22-year-old stepmother has been working 14-hour days in a mill to keep them. Asa Mercer's plan to take 700 single girls and widows from New England to a new town in Washington territory, Seattle, seems like a godsend. Mrs. D. wants to regain her lost girlhood and marry a banker. Jane hopes for school, playtime, and friends. After a four-month voyage, they're astonished to discover that Seattle is a foggy, rough-hewn frontier town—hardly a tropical paradise. With no money and no hope of employment, Jane's stepmother marries a frontiersman, Mr. Wright, who, while far from rich or handsome, does his best to listen to what his new family needs. While the main characters are all white, several characters in Seattle are either full or half Native American, specifically Duwamish, and they are portrayed with honesty and sympathy. Pragmatic, adaptable Jane learns to skin otters, build a canoe, and look for ways in which everyone can get a part of what they want. There's plenty of action, but the strength of the novel comes from its characterization, especially Jane’s, whose point of view becomes more reliable as she matures.
Ignore the lackluster title and cover. This one's a keeper. (Historical fiction. 8-14)