The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail

Overview

When she was a young girl, Narcissa loved nothing better than to read heroic tales about brave men and women risking their lives to bring Christian ideas to "barbarians" in far-off places. In 1831, her dream of doing the same was about to come true. That's when some Indians arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, looking for the "White Man's Book of Heaven." Their quest was the answer to Narcissa's prayers: She would bring salvation to "those wandering sons of our native forests. "

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Overview

When she was a young girl, Narcissa loved nothing better than to read heroic tales about brave men and women risking their lives to bring Christian ideas to "barbarians" in far-off places. In 1831, her dream of doing the same was about to come true. That's when some Indians arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, looking for the "White Man's Book of Heaven." Their quest was the answer to Narcissa's prayers: She would bring salvation to "those wandering sons of our native forests. "

Narcissa married Marcus Whitman, another missionary want-to-be, and they headed West. She spent her honeymoon riding side-saddle some 2,000 miles across the vast, often perilous trail to Oregon Country—something no other white woman had ever done. Then she and Marcus lived happily ever after singing hymns and teaching the Indians about the Bible, right? Wrong! Readers will find out what really happened when East met West at the end of the real-life, legendary 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 - Rachel Wadham
Offering a refreshing counterpoint to dry, stodgy histories are two works from a planned series of eight. Outlining the journeys of two early adventurers, Narcissa Whitman and Myles Standish, Harness offers middle grade readers a distinctive view of historical events. The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman chronicles the life of a young lady who had dreams of bringing religion to nonbelievers in far-off places. Her dreams came true when she married Marcus Whitman and they both headed west along the legendary Oregon Trail. Narcissa was the first white woman to make this perilous journey, and her story is one of dedication and courage. Excerpts from Narcissa's journals add flavor to her story, which ends quite tragically. The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish tells the familiar history of the pilgrims who came to America fleeing their religious persecutions in England. Focused on Myles Standish, the colonies' military advisor, the text covers the immigrants' travels and first hard years until the time of Myles's death in 1656. Focusing on one person and then placing that person in his or her historical context makes these works a wonderfully unique combination of biography and history. The extensive, illustrated time line that runs along the bottom of each page, while not always synchronized with the text, also adds interesting historical context. The works are well researched, and the presentation of controversial and overtly political topics is well balanced. The text is lively and interesting, with only occasional flaws such as the tendency to inconsistently define difficult words and frequent references to things that will be discussed later on. Drawings and maps stylizedto represent old woodcut pictures set off the text, but they are often so small, or as in the case of the maps especially, so overcrowded that they are of little use. A good bibliography and index complete these volumes that will find wide use in both public and school library collections.
Children's Literature - Kristy Lyn Sutorius
Along with her husband, Marcus, missionary and adventuress of the Wild West, Narcissa Whitman, headed out to win Indian hearts for the Protestant faith in 1836. Dirty, dusty clothing, cattle, and Conestoga wagons accompanied them along the Oregon Trail as the couple made their way to Waiilatp, a small settlement in the Northwest. While Marcus and Narcissa may have had good intentions, their efforts went awry due to misunderstandings with the Cayuse tribe, and their mission came to a tragic end. A time line spans the entire book as a footer, creating a context for Narcissa's story. Harness includes information on many other influential females living during this period—all with the same pluck and drive as Narcissa. A fresh take on Western Expansion, this biography would suit girls who appreciate the time period and faith of Alcott's Little Women, but are looking for the adventure of The Three Musketeers as well. Recommended for school and public libraries.
School Library Journal

Gr 5–8
Harness combines a breezy tone with exhaustively researched texts to produce not only exemplary life stories, but also snapshots of the periods. As the author makes amply clear, Standish was a hotheaded but effective secretary of defense for the struggling Plymouth Colony. His willingness to make a show of force and to invest both time and effort (his own and others') into constructing fortresses probably saved the fledgling colony from untimely destruction. The steps Whitman took to become a missionary, her historic journey to Oregon country, her years at the Waiilatpu Mission, and her tragic death at age 39 are all covered. The narrative is much enhanced by the frequent use of excerpts from her letters home. In each book, a running time line lists significant events taking place in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The texts incorporate information on the state of technology and how that impacted the journeys each individual made, the force and impact of religious beliefs and worldviews, and significant societal beliefs and mores. Black-and-white line illustrations extend the texts beautifully, as do the maps. The bibliographies and indexes are excellent. While readers may not pick these titles up on their own, Harness's style (though a bit arch in tone at times) will hold their interest. Much preferable to most standard series titles, such as Louis Sabin's Narcissa Whitman: Brave Pioneer (Troll, 1997), these books have a place in most school collections.
—Ann WeltonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780792259213
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 10/10/2006
  • Series: Cheryl Harness Histories Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,025,603
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Cheryl Harness is the author and/or illustrator of some 35 books for children. Visit this award-winning author-illustrator on the Web at www.cherylharness.com.
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