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Dear America: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie

Dear America: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie is a young reader’s historical fiction novel by Kristiana Gregory.

In 1847 Missoura, Thirteen-year-old Hattie Campbell has seen much tragedy at her young age. Her two older sisters died, and now her uncle perished in an accident. This has spurred her father to decide that their family needs to find a fresh start.

Selling almost all they own, Hattie and her family head toward Oregon City on the Oregon Trail. It feels like an exciting adventure at first, though Hattie’s mother is terribly upset about the move, until reality sets in.

Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. It feels like the trip will never end. And they’re bombarded with death, illness, bad weather, and an extremely coarse landscape that take a toll on the entire traveling party.

Hattie begins to wonder if all of her family will make it alive to Oregon…

I read many of the Dear America series when I was younger, and am pleased to see Scholastic releasing them again – even if I do far prefer the older layout and look. Even as an adult (figure I have to start calling myself that now at twenty-five), I still find the series to be gripping.

The sudden uproot of Hattie and the misfortune that has afflicted her family from the start reminded me, as historical fiction almost always does, how much we take for granted in the 21st century. To think of traveling by wagon for six months or more to get to a new land sounds unspeakable now. They had little to no protection against the heat, dust, wet… They watched friends and family die along the way.

Now, it’s simply a flight or drive away. Stunning when you really let your mind absorb it.

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie really sucked me in. I felt like I was crossing the unforgiving prairie with Hattie. Gregory’s writing was very involving and felt alive. As it glimpsed also the speed of which young girls grew up so much faster than they do today – marriages at fourteen! – it’s both fascinating and contentious.

I was truly wrapped up and riveted as I followed this journey. Its enthralling historical detail and believable characters made Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie, a short little book, very memorable.

I start and finished it in one day. I recommend it to any age!

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