Daniel's Walk

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Overview

I knelt down by one of the grizzly's tracks. It was larger than my hand where his pads had pushed the mud out wide. I pressed my palm into the hollow of his track and stretched my fingers out to touch his claw marks one by one. My scalp tingled.

"Sure was a big one, wasn't he?"

I spun around and something knocked me flat on my stomach. Before I could roll over, a heavy knee pinned my shoulder to the ground and a hard hand yanked my head back by the hair.

"It's me again, white ...

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Overview

I knelt down by one of the grizzly's tracks. It was larger than my hand where his pads had pushed the mud out wide. I pressed my palm into the hollow of his track and stretched my fingers out to touch his claw marks one by one. My scalp tingled.

"Sure was a big one, wasn't he?"

I spun around and something knocked me flat on my stomach. Before I could roll over, a heavy knee pinned my shoulder to the ground and a hard hand yanked my head back by the hair.

"It's me again, white boy," breathed Haggard in my ear. "Don't say you're not glad to see me." —From Daniel's Walk

"Your daddy's in trouble, boy," said the Voice.

Daniel's father is an experienced trapper who knows the Rocky Mountains. So what could have happened to him? Yet Daniel is haunted by the Voice and its message. He decides to leave his home in Missouri to search for his pa.

But it is 1844 and the West is a wilderness. Trouble lurks all along the Oregon Trail, and trouble finds Daniel right away. One stormy night he sees a frightening, scar-faced man stealing horses—and the horse thief sees him, too. Daniel barely escapes being shot. He joins a wagon train headed west, but for him there is no safety in numbers. As surely as he knows that his father is in danger, he knows that the scar-faced man will try to kill him again.

Slowly Daniel comes to understand that he and his father are not the only ones in danger. There are some who will prosper from the westward expansion, but many more-white and Indian alike-will suffer as their land and their lives are destroyed.

With little more than a bedroll, a change of clothes, and a Bible, fourteen-year-old Daniel LeBlanc begins walking the Oregon Trail in search of his father who, according to a mysterious visitor, is in big trouble and needs his son's help.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Your daddy's in trouble, boy. The harsh voice in the night that awakens fourteen-year-old Daniel gives no further information, but Daniel knows that he must go to his father immediately. Daniel's father has been long away out West in 1844, hunting and trapping. Daniel must walk many miles along the ragged road that begins in Missouri and leads eventually to Oregon, and Daniel is not sure how he will find just one man in the vast western wilderness, but his father's need drives him forward. Daniel wisely joins a wagon train headed by the older James Clyman, who befriends the boy. Daniel's first days are spent under constant rainfall, and he grows close to other pilgrims to the West. A mystical free black man named Johnny teaches Daniel the self-defense techniques needed by little men, and a ferocious orphan named Rosalie inspires Daniel with her cunning and courage. Daniel and Rosalie are captured by Haggard, a dangerous and insane horse robber, who unwittingly leads Daniel to his father for a reunion that is not at all as Daniel anticipated. The fictionalized portrayal of the miseries of travel on the Oregon Trail is excellent. Spooner describes the people, the forts, and the immense distances with attention to detail and accuracy. Through the telling, Daniel comes to realize that the West already is populated, not untamed, as propagated by white explorers. The characters are interesting, if not deeply drawn, and the action is well paced. Recommend this novel to history buffs, action-adventure lovers, and those interested in the intersection of Native American and European culture. VOYA CODES:4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;JuniorHigh, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Henry Holt, 214p, $16.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer:Diane Masla—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
Children's Literature
After seeing a vision that his French trapper father is in trouble, fourteen-year-old Daniel Le Blanc leaves the home of his aunt and uncle in Caldwell, Missouri to go west to search for his father. Traveling alone, Daniel meets trouble in a man named Haggard who will follow and plague him for his entire journey. After months of dangerous travel, Daniel is reunited with his father only to find that he is not welcome. As his father lies dying, Daniel learns that his father has been aiding the Native Americans who are being pushed off their land. While he makes the return trip to Missouri, Daniel learns to appreciate family relationships. Although the plot is a bit contrived and slow in places, the book is good and could be used as a companion piece for a middle grade unit about westward expansion and the displacement of the Native Americans. 2001, Henry Holt, $16.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: J. B. Petty
KLIATT
A voice in the night whispers to 14-year-old Daniel LeBlanc that his father, a fur trapper out west, is in trouble. Over his aunt's objections, Daniel heads out on foot from Missouri to find him—a thousand-mile journey. On his third night of travel, he comes across a scar-faced man named Haggard in the act of stealing horses from a wagon train. Daniel takes a shot at him, making a dangerous enemy of Haggard. Then Daniel joins up with the wagon train, which is led by a kind and knowledgeable guide named James Clyman (an actual historical figure, according to the author's afterword). He befriends Johnny, a freed slave who has fighting and healing skills, and outspoken Rosalie, an orphaned half-Indian girl Daniel's age. Life on the trail is difficult and exhausting as they plod through rain and then drought toward Oregon. Then Haggard catches up with them and kidnaps Daniel and Rosalie—taking them to Daniel's father, it turns out, who has become a sort of mystical king of the outlaws, furious at what the whites have been doing to the Indians. The reunion isn't exactly what Daniel had imagined, but he does get to see his father, and finally he returns to Missouri with Rosalie, sadder and wiser. Author Spooner says that his intent was "to tell a more realistic history and to promote a more humane understanding of how high a price was paid to spread our hungry nation from sea to shining sea." He points out "the doctrine of Manifest Destiny turned out to be manifestly a disaster for millions of Native American people who lived there." Spooner's detailed depiction of the hardships of life on the Oregon Trail brings to mind Gary Paulsen's series about young Tuckett's adventures, andlike Paulsen Spooner is a fine writer with a knack for creating realistic, rousing survival tales. This exciting, well-crafted novel would make an excellent supplement to any study of the era, and it's a good read for fans of historical fiction and adventure stories, too. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Henry Holt, 224p., $16.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
From The Critics
A voice calls out to Daniel in a dream that he should set out from his home in Missouri to search for his father, a trapper working along the Green River near the Rocky Mountains. The West of 1844 was a treacherous place for a young man, but Daniel was determined to find his absent father. He joins a wagon train heading out on the Oregon Trail. There, young Daniel makes friends with Mr. Clyman, his assistant, Johnny, and young woman named Rosalie. He also makes a formidable enemy in one Mr. Haggard. Haggard kidnaps Daniel and Rosalie, intending to sell them as slave labor to other outlaws. How Daniel manages to escape with his life makes for a suspenseful and absorbing read. Students who love the action adventure of authors like Will Hobbs and Gary Paulsen will enjoy Daniel's Walk. Because of the detailed descriptions of life on the Oregon Trail, history teachers might want to include this book in a study of westward expansion and exploration. The book produces a fast-paced story, while the underlying themes explore racism, exploitation, and prejudice. 2001, Henry Holt & Company, 214 pp., Lesesne
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-When Daniel LeBlanc hears a Voice in the night warning him that his father, a widowed French trapper, is in trouble, he sets off along the Oregon Trail in search of him. It's 1844, and the 14-year-old's quest clearly conveys the extreme difficulties encountered by those who attempted to settle the American West. Daniel walks over 1000 miles, is shot at, cut with a knife, beaten, half-starved, kidnapped, and nearly sold into slavery to the Utes. He is attacked by a dangerous scar-faced man who turns out to be his uncle and who shoots Daniel's father shortly after the boy finds him. Before his death, however, his father tells Daniel that he detests the white men for their treatment of Native Americans, that he has been helping them, and that he has married an Indian woman. Daniel realizes that the West is not the barren place he has been taught in school, and returns to his aunt's Missouri farm. While the author nicely conveys the drudgery and hardship of Daniel's trip, the plot is confusing and the characters are difficult to keep straight. A concluding note states the author's intent to depict history more realistically, showing the enormous price of white settlement of the West. Too bad the story doesn't show this more clearly through the characters and their actions, rather than having the author tell readers at the end of the book.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1844, a Voice in the night whispers to Daniel LeBlanc that his father needs help so he leaves his home in Caldwell, Missouri, and joins a wagon train heading for the Oregon Trail. Fourteen-year-old Daniel has been raised by his aunt and uncle after his mother's death and his father's disappearance in the West. Daniel is certain that he will be able to find this father he barely knows, a French fur-trapper, but heavy rains and a dangerous, horse-thieving outlaw imperil the wagon train's progress. He does become friends with a free black man and Rosalie, a young and resourceful half-Mandan girl who likes Shakespeare and beading with quills. When they finally arrive at Fort Laramie after hundreds of back-breaking, wind-blown miles, Daniel wonders whether or not the stockade walls keep out the Oglalas or "simply fence the white folks in"-a ponderous and probably anachronistic thought. When he finds a circle of buffalo skulls, he dreams of great Indian/soldier battles and of a wolf that speaks in the voice of his father. Kidnapped along with Rosalie, Daniel finds himself literally and figuratively in a den of wolves-a gang of white thieves who steal guns from the army and sell them to the Indians. In the violent finale, Daniel learns some truths about his family. His father survived an attack by a rabid wolf, took on its persona and appearance, and is the renegade leader of the gun thieves. The dangerous outlaw who kidnapped him is a member of the gang and his mother's brother. The story is certainly an adventure and conveys the hardships of the westward trek along with providing an interesting friendship between Rosalie and Daniel. However, Spooner relies too heavily on imagery. Rosalierefers to the uncle in Hamlet as a snake, certainly a precursor to Daniel's uncle. His father, perhaps too ahead of his time for seeing clearly the destruction of the Indian way of life and trying to forestall it, dies in a fire and causes Daniel to muse about darkness and light in his own life. He emerges a stronger young man from all he has lived through, but the journey is fraught with the perils of deep thinking and the temptations of literary symbolism. (Historical fiction. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805067507
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 10 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Spooner writes both poetry and prose for children. He is the author of A Moon in Your Lunchbox and is the director of the Utah State University Press. He lives with his family in Logan, Utah.

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Read an Excerpt

I knelt down by one of the grizzly's tracks. It was larger than my hand where his pads had pushed the mud out wide. I pressed my palm into the hollow of his track and stretched my fingers out to touch his claw marks one by one. My scalp tingled."Sure was a big one, wasn't he?"

I spun around and something knocked me flat on my stomach. Before I could roll over, a heavy knee pinned my shoulder to the ground and a hard hand yanked my head back by the hair.

"It's me again, white boy," breathed Haggard in my ear. "Don't say you're not glad to see me."

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Part 1 Caldwell, Missouri 1
Part 2 Road to Oregon 47
Part 3 Fort Laramie 93
Part 4 Green River 135
Part 5 Etienne 175
Epilogue 211
A Note on History 213
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2001

    Exciting historical novel.

    Daniel's mother died in childbirth when he was just a small boy. After that, his father, a fur trapper, left Daniel to be raised by relatives in Missouri. Aunt Judith believes Daniel's father is a good-for-nothing responsible for her sister's death. She and her husband discourage Daniel from ever searching for his father. But a mysterious voice in the night warns Daniel that his father is in danger. Determined to save him, he sets out to cross the country and find his father in the Rocky Mountains. Daniel joins up with a wagon train and meets a headstrong girl named Rosalie as well as a horse thief determined to kill him. But even if Daniel survives the dangers of the overland journey, can he escape the horse thief's vengeance and find his father before it's too late? This was an exciting historical novel with a new perspective on the Oregon Trail.

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