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Children's LiteratureWhen the Westward, Ho! call came, the journey began for many on the Oregon Trail. In this account, 12-year-old New Yorker Sarah Marshall recalls the extreme difficulties, ever-present dangers and occasional pleasures of the six-month trip across the country. This book focuses mostly on the nitty-gritty details of trail life, and children should respond to illuminating specifics like Sarah saving her money so they will have enough to pay for ferries across rivers, or the practice of writing "I was here" notes on the buffalo skulls that dotted the trail. Sarah's letters home to her friend Emily, and a brief epilogue telling how the two girls ultimately lived very different lives, touch on the greater implications of the westward migration. The book is one in the "I Am American" series from National Geographic, which also includes titles exploring the Civil War, Colonial America and Ellis Island immigration. As would be expected, the books highlight the importance of place in America's past, using a format that combines background narrative text with letters and journal entries from a fictional family to give the story a human touch. While keeping a strict chronology, these slim volumes avoid getting bogged down in the sequence of events, focusing instead on the feelings of ordinary people who changed and were changed by America's history. The combination of different illustration styles is well-executed; photographs, when available, are particularly good. Each title includes a glossary and a limited reader's guide that includes internet resources and a few questions and exercises encouraging readers to think further on the subject. 2003, National Geographic Society, Ages 8 to 12.