When ten-year-old Cora and her family leave their home in Missouri, their hearts are filled with the hopes and dreams of a bright future gleaming with promise and opportunity. But the journey west by wagon train is harsh, and tragedy strikes swiftly and unexpectedly. Now Cora and her father must steel themselves for a different future from what they had carefully planned. How can they move forward when their hearts are broken? But move on they must, and Cora takes comfort in her new baby sister (named Susan after...
When ten-year-old Cora and her family leave their home in Missouri, their hearts are filled with the hopes and dreams of a bright future gleaming with promise and opportunity. But the journey west by wagon train is harsh, and tragedy strikes swiftly and unexpectedly. Now Cora and her father must steel themselves for a different future from what they had carefully planned. How can they move forward when their hearts are broken? But move on they must, and Cora takes comfort in her new baby sister (named Susan after the black-eyed flowers). When Cora learns she and Susan are to be separated at the end of their journey, she looks to the past to help craft a link to their new lives. Judy Young is an award-winning author of children's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her other books in the Tales of Young Americans series are Minnow and Rose (2010 Storytelling World Resource Award) and The Lucky Star (2009 Storytelling World Honor Award). Judy lives near Springfield, Missouri. Doris Ettlinger graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and has numerous picture books to her credit, including the award-winning The Orange Shoes. Doris lives and teaches in an old grist mill on the banks of the Musconetcong River in western New Jersey.
Cora's mother dies in childbirth just as they cross the prairie towards Oregon during the period of Westward expansion. Her baby sister, however, survives, and Cora decides to call her Susan because of her blond tuft of hair and dark eyes, which remind the older girl of her mother's love for sun flowers. Aunt Alma cares for the infant, although Cora spends time with her when she can. She begins to think about all the people Susan will never meet or know, and starts sewing quilt squares from fabric she finds in her mother's sewing box. On each she creates images of their home in Missouri, and the sights and events they encounter as they move West. A day comes when the pioneers must separate. Some are headed for California, while Cora and her father are bound for Oregon. When her father tells her that it is best for Aunt Alma to keep the baby, Cora grieves the loss of her sister, but she puts the quilt pieces together in a little book and gives the book to her aunt for safekeeping. Cora's father becomes a successful farmer, and Cora goes to school. Six years later she becomes a teacher, and is offered a position in a new school. The minister explains that the school has no books, but is equipped with slates. As Cora registers her new students, she writes their names down carefully in her ledger. Finally, "The next child stood in front of her desk. And your name?" Cora asked, looking up from the ledger. "My name is Susan, and I have a book." (unpaged). Beautifully written and illustrated, this book will complement other sources about this time period, or stand alone as a good, well-researched read for newly independent readers. Reviewer: Dawna Lisa Buchanan
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Ten-year-old Cora is traveling in a covered wagon with her parents on the Oregon Trail when tragedy dashes their dreams of a new beginning. The girl's mother dies in childbirth, and Cora names her blond, dark-eyed sister Susan after the black-eyed flowers she had picked for her mother along the way. One rainy day, she begins sewing quilt squares to show to the baby and commemorate the journey west. Their home in Missouri, the covered wagon, a campfire, prairie dogs, buffalo, and other animals are just some of the images captured in her squares. When her father decides that her aunt and uncle, who are heading to California, should raise Susan, a heartbroken Cora fashions the cloth squares into a book for her. Aunt Alma promises to tell the baby all about the big sister who loves her, once she is old enough to understand. Six years later, the teen passes a test to become a schoolteacher, headed south with a minister and his wife. The surprise ending, however unlikely, will warm readers' hearts. Realistic watercolor images reveal the intricacies of pioneer life and the emotional turmoil of the characters. An engaging introduction to life during the Westward expansion.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY