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Children's LiteratureThis book is the story of Erinia Pavaloff and her life at a Russian trading post--odinochka. Set around 1855, this novel provides young readers a glimpse into a child's life in Alaska before Alaska was ceded to the United States. Erinia's father is half-Russian and half Indian, while her mother is full-blood Athabascan. Living with her parents, brothers, and friends at the Nulato odinochka, Erinia's life is full of meeting new people, learning new skills, and finding out about the history of her family and the cultures that influence her life. Adventure enters Erinia's life when four members of the American Western Union Telegraph company arrive and use the odinochka as a base for their work to set up the telegraph. But their work comes to naught when Russian America (Alaska) is sold to the United States, and Erinia and her family face an uncertain future as their trading post becomes the property of the Alaska Commercial company. The final chapters of the book deal with a murder and a cultural response to that killing. In reading the postscript, the reader finds out that it is this story--provided as a five page manuscript from Erinia herself--that guides this book. I had mixed feelings about this story. The history of Alaska told through the eyes of a child is very compelling, although there is not a great deal of tension throughout most of the book. The tension erupts in the final chapters and becomes less Erinia's story than her friend's. In that sense this title comes off as two stories. 2005, Margaret McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, Ages 9 to 14.
—Jean Boreen, Ph.D.