In this plodding fictionalized account of a real girl's Oregon Trail experience, nine-year-old Mary Ellen Todd heads west in 1852 with her potter father, unemotional stepmother, and two younger sisters. Along the way, she meets up with other families on the Oregon Trail, encounters both hostile and friendly Indians, and suffers from disease and hunger. Mary Ellen's first-person narration hews to a child's perspective of the journey. Before starting out from Arkansas, she talks of her sadness in leaving her grandmother, who is too old to make the arduous trip, and of her own fear of the unknown. But once the family decides to go, she is uncomplaining and even eager to leave. Along the way she bears more responsibility than ever before, is often bored and occasionally frightened. But when she sees beautiful Oregon, she feels that she is finally home. One can't help but compare Van Leeuwen's (Two Girls in Sister Dresses, p. 709, etc.) story to Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and be disappointed at the lack of detail. Mary Ellen describes so little of the day-to-day workings of the trip that, except for the wagons, this might as well be a cross-country Winnebago junket. Westward ho-hum.