The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds: The Donner Party Expedition, 1846

The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds: The Donner Party Expedition, 1846

by Rodman R. Philbrick
     
 

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In Rodman Philbrick's first MY NAME IS AMERICA book, he tells the harrowing story of the Donner Party through the viewpoint of Douglas Allen Deeds, an enthusiastic young farm boy traveling West with the doomed expedition.

Overview

In Rodman Philbrick's first MY NAME IS AMERICA book, he tells the harrowing story of the Donner Party through the viewpoint of Douglas Allen Deeds, an enthusiastic young farm boy traveling West with the doomed expedition.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA
In May 1846, fourteen-year-old orphan Douglas Allen Deeds pays his last tributes at the gravesites of his maw and paw in Independence, Missouri, before joining the party of George and Jacob Donner heading West to California where "a man can eat a fresh peach in December and never be cold." With wagons in a procession two miles long, the Donner expedition is a grand undertaking aided by James Reed and Colonel Russell—two emigrants West more inexperienced than the members of the party. Although "a combination of bad directions, bad timing, and bad weather" was to doom the Donner party ultimately, the journal engages the reader through its simplicity and honesty. Philbrick's account rings true and sweet, causing this reader to become invested in Deeds's daily adventures and ordeals. Unlike other titles by Philbrick, this journal will appeal to readers of various ability levels. The short entries and slim volume will attract reluctant eighth grade readers, and the content will enthrall all secondary school students interested in U.S. history. Deeds's adventures in the early United States are as exciting as those of Philbrick's character Spaz in the dystopian Urb depicted in The Last Book in the Universe (Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2000/VOYA December 2000) or as emotionally riveting as those in Philbrick's Freak the Mighty (1993/VOYA April 1994) and Max the Mighty (1998/VOYA June 1998). Even jaded adult readers who know the foregone conclusion will find this journal interesting. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).2001, Scholastic, 160p. PLB Blinn
KLIATT
Philbrick (author of Freak the Mighty) turns his skills to the telling of the dramatic story of the Donner Party Expedition, the doomed party that resorted to cannibalism to survive in the Sierra Nevadas. He has chosen the voice of a 15-year-old orphan, Douglas, who decides to leave Missouri when his parents die, and join up with the Donner Party who are determined to find their fortunes in California, inspired by inflated expectations and misdirected by erroneous travel plans. A friendly family, with a son, Edward, about Douglas' own age, takes in Douglas and he proves to be as helpful as any adult on the expedition. He enters the major events of the trek in his journal, recording his own confusion about the instructions the adults are following based on the book by Lansford Hastings, who is careless about the specifics. The group jump to take Hastings' suggestion that they can save time by taking a shortcut, but this shortcut delays them to the extent that they are high in the Sierra Nevadas when the first snows fall. Out of food, in the freezing weather, many die and others eat the dead bodies to survive. Douglas ponders this dilemma and fortunately is saved the necessity to eat another human's body when a rabbit is caught and eaten instead. This is a dramatic story of adventure and survival, made even more vivid by Philbrick's skill as a writer. Philbrick makes Douglas a thoughtful, wholly realized character, heroic and strong, yet filled with doubts and confusion at times as well. (My Name is America, a Dear America book) KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Scholastic, 158p. illus. bibliog., $10.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser;KLIATT , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-"Today I embark on a great journey." This initial, optimistic entry in a 15-year-old orphan's journal exemplifies the Donner Party's hopes for a new and better life in California. Although he knows that James Reed and George Donner lack experience in such an endeavor as a trek west, Deeds believes in the men. He describes the many difficulties encountered on the journey, including river crossings, poor roads, and fear of Native Americans. Little by little, the hardships increase-members of the group die from illness or injury, and the number of wagons dwindles. The decision to use the Hasting "shortcut" proves deadly. Trapped in the snow and facing starvation, the Donner Party is transformed from a group of cooperative and generous people into one plagued by suspicion and selfishness, resorting even to cannibalism (no graphic details). In the epilogue, readers are told that Deeds and his friend Edward Breen were among the first to discover gold in California. Using actual events and characters, this fictional journal brings a tragic story to life, showing the changes in people brought about by incredible hardships. A selection of archival photographs is included.-Lana Miles, Duchesne Academy, Houston, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Today I embark on a great journey." This initial, optimistic entry in a 15-year-old orphan's journal exemplifies the Donner Party's hopes for a new and better life in California. Although he knows the James Reed and George Donner lack experience in such an endeavore as a trek west, Deeds believes in the men. He describes the many difficulties encountered on the journey, including river crossing, poor roads, and fear of Native Americans. Little by little, the hardships increase--members of the group die from illness or injury, and the number of wagons dwindles. The decision to use the Hasting "shortcut" proves deadly. Trapped in the snow and facing starvation, the Donner Party is transformed from a group of cooperative and generous people into one plagued by suspicion and selfishness, resorting even to cannibalism (no graphic details). In the epilogue, readers are told that Deeds and his friend Edward Breen were among the first to discover gold in California. Using actual events and characters, this fictional journal brings a tragic story to life, showing the changes in people brought about by incredible hardships. A selection of archival photographs is included.
--School Library Journal, December 2001

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439555197
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
11/28/2003
Series:
My Name Is America Series
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author


Rodman Philbrick is the author of six award-winning novels for young readers. His first novel, Freak the Mighty, won the California Young Reader Medal. It was received with great acclaim and has sold more than a million copies. The sequel, Max the Mighty, received starred reviews, and his novel The Fire Pony was named a 1996 Capital Choice. His more recent books for the Blue Sky Press are REM World; The Last Book in the Universe, which was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and The Young Man and the Sea, which received a starred review from School Library Journal. He and his wife live in Maine and the Florida Keys.

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