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by Joy N. Hulme

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: July 31st, 2000
ISBN: 0-380-97870-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

The first of a projected series of novels based on true family stories gathered by the author, this has the warmth of real life and a bit of the static quality of a sepia photograph. Dora is nine, and her family travels by wagon from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the New Mexico territory near Clovis in the autumn of 1910. Dora has never been able to speak properly, but a doctor’s visit just before their trek reveals that she’s “tongue-tied.” A quick, unpleasant operation cuts her tongue free. Learning to speak is no easy matter; in this first-person narrative Dora describes how she listened to her baby brother’s efforts at making sounds in order to teach herself. As the wagon train travels, Dora and her family encounter changing landscapes, meet with a group of Navajo with whom her father shares his own basket-weaving technique, and reach their homestead, which is not what they expected. The search for well water—aided by a Navajo dowsing stick—the birth of a new baby sister, and Dora’s steady efforts to learn to speak (and then to read) add to the texture of the story, as does the family’s ties to their church, the Latter-Day Saints. Dora’s voice is definitely that of an adult recollecting, but what she tells is compelling enough to keep young readers listening. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)