Meg Wells’s diary, the newest addition to the popular My America series, tells the story of two-and-a-half months in a St. Louis girl’s life in 1856. Meg and her little brother, Preston, live in a loving family with their parents and little sister, Grace. Life is filled with the excitement of the big city: steamboats, ice cream parlors, hoopskirts, and fancy hotels. But all is not idyllic. The family lives with ghost of the 1849 cholera epidemic, when their older siblings lost their lives. Then there is the growing tension about the role of slavery in Kansas, which is soon to become a state. If that isn’t enough, another outbreak of cholera has hit the family. Once Grace and Mrs. Wells become ill, their distraught mother trundles Meg and Preston off to what she hopes will be the safety of Kansas, where their Aunt Margaret lives. The story flows better than many epistolary novels. Meg’s voice does not stray from that of a well-educated, somewhat prim nine-year-old. Her horror and fear are appropriately innocent when she accidentally witnesses a slave auction. Meg and Preston have many adventures: the steamship runs into a sandbar and lists dangerously; the passengers rush to each meal, causing a human stampede; and they actually become part of the Underground Railroad. Large font, short passages, and interesting facts and details are packed into this earnest adventure for readers just ready for chapter books. A good companion to Deborah Hopkinson’s Pioneer Summer (p. 570). (historical note) (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-42517-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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Fact and fiction dovetail neatly in this tale of a wonderfully resolute child who finds a memorable way to convince her father that the newly-finished Brooklyn Bridge is safe to cross. Having watched the great bridge going up for most of her young life, Hannah is eager to walk it, but despite repeated, fact-laced appeals to reason (and Hannah is a positive fount of information about its materials and design), her father won’t be moved: “No little girl of mine will cross that metal monster!” Hannah finally hatches a far-fetched plan to convince him once and for all; can she persuade the renowned P.T. Barnum to march his corps of elephants across? She can, and does (actually, he was already planning to do it). Pham places Hannah, radiating sturdy confidence, within sepia-toned, exactly rendered period scenes that capture both the grandeur of the bridge in its various stages of construction, and the range of expressions on the faces of onlookers during its opening ceremonies and after. Readers will applaud Hannah’s polite persistence. (afterword, resources) (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-87011-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective.


Stowing away with French Canadian fur traders in 1792, a loquacious red squirrel embarks on a life-changing adventure.

Each spring, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, a squirrel with wanderlust, watches brave, strong voyageurs depart in canoes from Montreal and return the following autumn. Determined to be a voyageur, Le Rouge hides in a canoe paddled by eight stout voyageurs, part of a brigade of five. Soon his incessant chattering distracts the voyageurs, who become separated from the rest of the brigade, but, after ascending the highest tree, he points the crew back on course. More than once, pesky Le Rouge barely escapes becoming squirrel ragout. He’s just beginning to feel like a real voyageur when they reach the trading post on Lake Superior, where he discovers the voyageurs exchanging their cargo for animal skins to return to Montreal. Heartsick, Le Rouge decides he cannot be a voyageur if it involves trading animal skins, unless he can change things. Le Rouge relates his story with drama and flair, presenting a colorful prism through which to view the daily life of a voyageur. Peppered with historical facts and (italicized) French phrases and names, this exciting, well-documented tale (with a contemporary animal-rights subtext) proves educational and entertaining. Realistic pencil drawings highlight Le Rouge’s memorable journey.

A rousing introduction to the life of a voyageur told from a unique perspective. (map, pronunciation guide, historical and biological notes, recipe, further reading) (Historical fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4247-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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