How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail

Overview

This next volume in the charmingly tongue-in-cheek How to Get Rich series hits the jackpot once again. How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail continues the winning combination of authentic historical facts and entertaining fictional voices. The narrative offers good-humored and practical advice for a trip out west along the Oregon Trail.

This whimsical recounting of one family’s journey to their new homestead will give readers an appreciation of the hardships faced by all those who...

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Overview

This next volume in the charmingly tongue-in-cheek How to Get Rich series hits the jackpot once again. How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail continues the winning combination of authentic historical facts and entertaining fictional voices. The narrative offers good-humored and practical advice for a trip out west along the Oregon Trail.

This whimsical recounting of one family’s journey to their new homestead will give readers an appreciation of the hardships faced by all those who signed up for the great migration. These include hunger, thirst, sickness, hostile American Indians, and even deceit and thievery on the part of fellow travelers. The book also shows the ingenuity, skill, and trickery used to overcome such challenges.

Wittily interweaving the fictional characters’ adventures with historical personages, locales, and events, Tod Olson captures many distinctive facets of the pioneering American spirit. Uniquely, he examines the economic angles of America’s westward expansion, showing the lure of financial opportunities that tempted so many onto the Oregon Trail—and the harsh realities that they discovered along the way. Artwork and archival images create a scrapbook collage effect, making the book a visual feast, and a fascinating snapshot of this period of American history. The rich back matter includes a note from Marc Aronson that specifies what is fact and what is fiction, as well as an extensive "Encyclopedia of the Oregon Trail."

National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit www.natgeoed.org/commoncore for more information. 

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Debbie Clifford
When William Reed was fifteen, his family decided to leave their comfortable life in Springfield, Illinois, and head West. It was 1852 and nearly 60,000 other people set out on the Oregon Trail as well. This book is William's account of his family's journey on the trail. There were plenty of hardships—from cholera, scurvy, and mountain fever to raging rivers, unscrupulous suppliers, and downright scoundrels even among their companions. William tells of a band of Indian warriors who stole his family's oxen and horses. He and his brother later discovered that the "warriors" were the associates of a fellow traveler who planned to sell the livestock for an inflated price to desperate emigrants. As in How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush (National Geographic, 2008), fact mixes with fiction to relate historical events. Although the details of William's experiences resemble real happenings, no evidence endures of the existence of William or his family. Olson and his colleagues produce a highly readable account of life on the Oregon Trail. As informative as any textbook, this book is far more entertaining and is sure to hold the interest of young teen readers or anyone with an interest in the Westward movement. Reviewer: Debbie Clifford
Children's Literature - Amy S. Hansen
Olson has written an enjoyable history lesson. Designed as the diary entries of one 15-year-old William Reed, Olson tells the story of a family that leaves a relatively comfortable existence in Springfield, Illinois, to take on the challenges of the trail and start over in Oregon. The hopes of riches are of course, unrealized. The troubles on the trail begin almost immediately as they start seeing higher prices for trail supplies. However, food must be bought and rivers must be crossed, which means money must be spent. Fortunately, the Reeds have the skills (doctoring and blacksmithing) to keep moving, and even help others on the way. The villains of the trail are people disguised as Sioux warriors, a trick used at the time to fan the fears of the travelers. The narrator William Reed mentions real people, describing Brigham Young as the family passes through Utah. While National Geographic editors put in a note at the beginning saying these diaries are not real, they do make an effort to be accurate, an assertion backed up by Marc Aronson in the afterword. Aronson says that basically everything mentioned in the book could be found to have happened to someone else, just not the Reed family. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of the Oregon Trail and lists of further reading. Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7

Following in the footsteps of How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush (National Geographic, 2008), Oregon Trail is the fictionalized account of an overland journey in 1852, recorded by budding writer 15-year-old William Reed, whose well-to-do family "follows the siren call of opportunity" by going west. Both an editor's note at the outset and an afterword stress the fact that there is not a "single scrap" of evidence that Reed or his family ever lived but that much of what he describes in his journal "precisely matches historical records." The entries, which follow the teen from Springfield, IL, to Portland, OR, describe his family tribulations, rampant disease along the trail, perilous river crossings, interactions with Native tribes, and the exploits of a corrupt wagon master. As the title suggests, finances are kept close track of with an antique-looking ledger sheet recording the family's income and expenses on each page as they earn and lose money by restocking lost or used supplies and plying their various trades (father is a doctor and brother Nathan is a blacksmith and entrepreneur). A list of further reading and online resources is accompanied by a two-page "Encyclopedia of the Oregon Trail" that defines terminology used within the text. Richly illustrated with a mix of historically authentic lithographs and "William Reed's" drawings, this book is a colorful and lively introduction to the time period.-Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426304125
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 2/10/2009
  • Series: How to Get Rich Series
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,426,867
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.32 (w) x 10.36 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Tod Olson is the author of How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush; Andrew Jackson; and In the Line of Fire: A Story about D-Day. He lives in Middlesex, VT.

Scott Allred is an acclaimed illustrator and mural painter. Following How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush, this is his second children’s book. He lives in Asheville, NC.

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