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CHILDREN OF THE WILD WEST by Russell Freedman

CHILDREN OF THE WILD WEST

By Russell Freedman

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1983
ISBN: 0395547857
Publisher: Clarion

A successor of sorts to Immigrant Kids (1980)--but a less focused, more diffuse entity. The title, indeed, is something of a misnomer: though the period photographs that are the book's prime attraction frequently show frontier children, much of the volume has simply to do with the westward travel and settlement of which children were a part. On the other hand, the chapter on the lives of Indian children is really ethnography, except for mention of Indian boarding schools. Subsequent chapters--on frontier schools, on chores and paid employment (Nat Love and other black cowhands, Lotta Crabtree and other performers), on assorted diversions--are somewhat less fulfilling than reading Laura Ingalls Wilder. (They're also somewhat less frank: "Discipline. . . was not usually a serious problem for female teachers," we're told. "In those days they were respected because they were women.") As an account of frontier conditions, however, the text is as unromantic as the photos (e.g., "Accidents and disease killed far more emigrants than the Indians did"); and the endpaper photo alone--a multiethnic, multiracial crush of children in Central City, Colorado--will make the book memorable for some.