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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...
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."
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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