Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trailby Cheryl Harness
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.
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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.
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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