"[A] carefully researched, sympathetic, well-balanced picture of life on the frontier; authentic details of daily life are deftly woven into a moving story."--Kirkus Reviews
"Vividly real."--The Bulletin
"An exciting story."--VOYA
Twelve-year-old Jimmy Spoon yearns for a life of adventure. So when two Shoshoni boys offer him a horse, Jimmy sneaks away from his family in Salt Lake City to follow the boys. When Jimmy arrives at the Shoshoni camp, he discovers that he is expected to stay--as a member of the tribe!
Inspired by the memoirs of a white man who actually lived with Chief Washakie's tribe as a boy in the mid-1800s, The Legend of Jimmy Spoon is a compelling coming-of-age adventure.
An Unhappy Birthday
Jimmy awoke with a start. His mother was rushing toward the door with baby Annie in her arms. Emma and Frances were hanging on to her apron, crying in panic.
"Jimmy!" she yelled. "Hurry."
No moon lit their way, and there were no torches this time. The warning drum pounded on as women and children ran through the darkness. They crowded into the log schoolhouse in the center of the fortress.
"Shh," the mothers whispered. But the babies still cried. Jimmy was certain one night the arrows would stop them before they made it to safety.
His family was new to Brigham Young's Mormon settlement, and every night they went to bed in fear. Would they be killed in their sleep? Or would the terrible sound of the drum wake them in time?
To the settlers' relief, attacks by the Gosiutes eventually became demands for food or supplies, and the walls of the protective fort were taken down, its wood used to build simple houses. The Shoshoni and Bannock tribes migrated north and only appeared for trading.
"It's cheaper to feed an Indian than to fight him," Brigham Young told Jimmy's father. "A few thousand bushels of wheat a year and whatnot should take care of them."
The pioneers Brigham Young had led across the Great Plains in 1847 were now homesteading the parched Utah territory that bordered a great salt lake. Seeds carried on the fourteen-hundred-mile trek in pouches and letter boxes from Nauvoo, Illinois, had been planted immediately, as were the rose cuttings, geraniums slips, and seedling trees that had survived.
Brigham Young told his followers that only by thrift, industry, and working as hard as bees would they prosper. Soon orchards were fragrant with cherry, peach, apple, and apricot blossoms. Rows upon rows of fast-growing poplars waved in the wind. Streams flowing from the towering Wasatch Mountains were used to irrigate the land, and before long trees were shading porches along broad avenues. The Mormon colony flourished at such an amazing pace that it was to be nicknamed "The Beehive State."
On the sunny afternoon of May 13, 1854, Jimmy blew out the candles on his birthday cake and made a wish. He was twelve now, and more than ever he wanted a horse.
While his mother sliced through the chocolate icing and layers of fluffy white cake, Jimmy stood next to her, savoring his wish. The yard was noisy with the laughter of his sisters, who chased each other and twirled in their long skirts.
Nine sisters. Jimmy sighed. He yearned for a brother with whom he could wrestle and climb trees or explore the outskirts of town. A brother would understand Jimmy's desire for adventure. A brother would understand why Jimmy hoped his birthday present would be a horse.
But the small, square package his father proudly handed him had nothing to do with a horse. Tucked inside the paper was a silver pocket watch, engraved with Jimmy's initials.
Mr. Spoon watched expectantly as Jimmy unfolded a note lined with elegant blue script. It was an announcement. Silently, Jimmy read the words.
He was now the honored Junior Partner at Spoon's Fancy Store, where he would be in charge of polishing and arranging the pocket watches displayed under glass. Instead of smiling, as his father surely hoped he would, Jimmy closed his eyes and tried to hide his disappointment.
It was a job that he knew would be painfully quiet.
Already Jimmy's heart ached with boredom.
Copyright © 1990 by Kristiana Gregory
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
KRISTIANA GREGORY is the author of Earthquake at Dawn, The Legend of Jimmy Spoon, and Jenny of the Tetons, which won a Golden Kite Award and was an NCSS-CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. She began writing when she was eight years old. She has worked as a reporter, an editor, and a children's book reviewer. She lives with her family in Boise, Idaho.
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Gregory's best known book is probably Jenny of the Tetons, about a young Indian woman married to a white man in nineteenth century Wyoming. Her two Jimmy Spoon books, this one and Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express (1994), are based upon the life of a real character, Elijah Nicholas Wilson, who wrote Among the Shoshones about his own experiences. In the first, twelve-year Jimmy Spoon is lured away from his family in Salt Lake City, UT, by Indians, is adopted into the Shoshoni tribe of Chief Washakie, and chooses to remain with them for almost three years as the son of the chief's mother, during which time he falls in love with Nahanee, until the possibility of war between the Indians and the whites forces him to return to his home. In the second, Jimmy, now almost eighteen, leaves his three years of work in his father's store to ride on the Pony Express and finally returns to the Shoshoni to marry Nahanee. The author says that she is "writing for young readers." The books are well written and interesting to read, but there are occasional euphemisms for taking the Lord's name in vain and cursing (e.g., Lordy, darned). Worse yet, while she does point out that the Indians fought among themselves, she says that the books "are for my Native American friends," and there seems to be a subtle implication that the Indian way of life was perhaps superior to the whites. This may have been the conclusion that the original character upon whom the books are based concluded, but to me it is a bit one-sided. Of course, Jimmy is evidently from a Mormon background, and if I had to choose between the Mormon way of life (it is specifically mentioned in the books that Brigham Young lived in Salt Lake City with his many wives and that two of Jimmy's sisters married the same man) and the Indian way of life, it would be difficult. There are also a few rather gruesome scenes where scalpings and other killings are described in some vivid detail. All in all, they are not bad books, but I have read better.
Jimmy Spoon was a very awesome book and I recommend it to 6th graders around the world hope you read it.