Calling Me Home

Calling Me Home

by Patricia Hermes, Olson

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Twelve-year-old Abbie and her family are finding the homesteader's life on the Nebraska plains harder than they ever imagined. Trying to save the money to buy a homestead, Papa is working in town and rarely comes home to visit. Abbie, her sister, two brothers, and their mother live out on their prairie farm, isolated from civilization. Abbie wishes for impossible


Twelve-year-old Abbie and her family are finding the homesteader's life on the Nebraska plains harder than they ever imagined. Trying to save the money to buy a homestead, Papa is working in town and rarely comes home to visit. Abbie, her sister, two brothers, and their mother live out on their prairie farm, isolated from civilization. Abbie wishes for impossible things: that the family could live in town, that she could own a piano, could attend school, and have friends her own age. But then tragedy strikes and Abbie tortures herself with remorse, no longer sure that she and her family will find the courage and faith to survive.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sue Reichard
Life on the Nebraska Prairie is very hard in the year 1886. For one and a half years, Abbie and her family have lived in a one-room, sod house. Cramped and without privacy, Abbie longs for a normal home, a piano, and a chance to go to school. Abbie's dreams turn to dust when her brothers are stricken with cholera and die. Abbie also comes down with the disease but survives and must overcome her feelings of guilt and unhapiness with life on the prairie. The story of human struggles and hope will be an inspiration to readers.
Kirkus Reviews
The death of a brother transforms a preteen's discontent into guilt in this weakly constructed drama, set on the Nebraska prairie in the 1850s, just before the Homestead Act.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I Know lots of stories, mostly because Papa is always reading to us, reading from the Bible or from the other books he has there in the chest by the fireplace. At night, when he's home and work is done, he calls us all to him -- Mamma and me and my sister, Sarah, and our brothers, Charlie and Nathaniel -- and he reads. Certain stories, like the ones from the Bible, he reads over and over. Other stories he makes up out of his own head, but each time he tells them, they're a little bit different. One of the things Papa is always telling us is that stories help us understand our lives.

Papa has lots of sayings like that.

Now, though, I have my own story to tell, but I'm not going to just tell it. I'm going to write it.

I bent over my notebook, squinting my eyes almost shut against the hot June sun, then looked at Sarah, lying beside me. She was flat on her back, her skirt full out around her, her narrow, bony feet bare, her face tilted up to the sun. Her arms were crossed behind her head to make a pillow, and her cornhusk doll, Emmaline, was tucked under her head, too.

"I'm writing a history," I said, "a family history."

Sarah didn't answer. She just lay there, her face turned up.

I returned to my book, shielding it from the sun, leaning so I made my own shadow, and my head loomed large and dark against the page. "Did you hear, Sarah?" I said again. "Did you hear what I'm doing?"

Sarah pulled Emmaline out from under her head and folded herinto her arms. She looked over at me. "I heard you, Abbie," she said.

I made a face at her. "So why didn't you answer?" I said.

"I was thinking," she said.

"That's all you ever do," I said. "How come you think so much? What are you always thinking about?"

Sarah shrugged. "Things," she said.

"What things?" I said.

Sarah smiled at me then, her face lighting up in that slow, gentle way she has. "The wind," she said. "I was thinking about the wind and how the grass must feel when the wind moves it. And how happy I am that Mamma let us come out here today and didn't make us help in the soddy. And I was thinking about snakes and wondering why God made them." She frowned. "Why did He, do you think?"

"Why?" I said. "Because ... just because."

"You sound like Papa," she answered. She imitated Papa's voice, gentle and soft. "Winds blow because they blow. Stars shine because they can. Bears kill because they're bears."

"Papa's right!" I said. "All those things are true. Now why are you doing that?"

Sarah had turned Emmaline in her arms, lifting her so that the sun was full on the doll's wrinkled little face.

She blinked at me. "Emmaline's cold," she said.

I started to say, Emmaline's a doll! But I didn't. With what Sarah's been through this past winter -- three whole months with influenza and then the whooping cough, so sick we thought for a time she was going to die -- well, maybe she needs to act like a baby for a while. At least, that's what Papa says. And who knows? Maybe Sarah was right, and Emmaline did need to be warmed through.

"So what's a family history?" Sarah said.

"A true story," I answered, "about us. All the family stories."

Sarah hugged Emmaline to her. "About us on the prairie?" she said. "Or before, when we lived in St. Joseph?"

"Both," I said. "About St. Joseph, when we had a house and a real school -- good things like that.

And then about what it's like here on the prairie. In our old gopher hole."

"It's not a gopher hole, Abbie!" Sarah said, frowning the way she always does when I call it a gopher hole. "That's not nice."

Is too a gopher hole, I said, but I didn't say it out loud, just inside my head.

"Papa's building us a house," Sarah went on, still frowning. "A room, anyway. He is, and you know it."

"I know," I said, and I felt guilty for complaining. But I did long for our old house. I hated living practically underground, in a sod house made out of the earth, with a ceiling that leaked and dropped dirt and dust into our dinner. And bugs! Heavens, there were bugs, and now that it was summer, flies. And all of us jammed in just one room, to sleep, eat, and everything else, for over a year now. One year and three months, to be exact. "It's taking very much too long," I said.

"Papa said maybe by winter he'd have one room ready," Sarah said.

"That's what he said last winter," I said.

Besides, I wanted more than just a room, so much more. There was one thing in particular I missed and wished for so much. Papa always says, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. But I couldn't help wishing. For a very long time, I'd even been saving up money. Every time Grandfather or someone sent birthday money, I put some of it in my little velvet bag.

Neither of us said anything for a minute, and then Sarah said, "Abbie?"


"The piano?" she said.

I reached out and tugged gently on one of her braids. "Think you're a mind reader," I said.

But I smiled. Sarah reminds me so much of Papa sometimes -- she hears what you don't say, hears it as clear as if you do say it.

"Yes!" I said, sighing. "It's selfish. Mamma told me it...

Calling Me Home. Copyright © by Patricia Hermes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Patricia Hermes is the author of more than 20 novels for children and young adults. Among her many awards are the California Young Reader Medal, the Pine Tree Book Award, and the Hawaii Nene award. Her books have also been named IRA/CBC Children’s Choices and Notable Children’s Trade Books in the field of Social Studies. Her titles include Kevin Corbett Eats Flies; Heads, I Win; My Girl; and My Girl 2.

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