Friday, September 04, 2009

Hattie Big Sky: a review

by Kirby Larson

Hattie Inez Brooks, having been orphaned at an early age, has spent most of her life being shuffled from one relative to another. Now, at sixteen, she is about to be pulled out of school when an unexpected letter arrives. Her Uncle Chester has died and left her his homestead in eastern Montana. Determined to build a life and home of her own, Hattie sets out for Montana alone.

Kirby Larson obviously did an impressive research job for this book but she also manages to avoid the throw-everything-in approach which can haunt historical fiction. I really liked the fact that she did not feel the need to over-explain the homesteading system. I had no idea that homesteading had continued into the 20th century, so that aspect was fascinating to read about.

The characters, with the possible exception of Aunt Ivy, all felt delicately handled and well rounded. I still don't know what I think about Trask Martin. Which is to say, he felt human. I also liked the resolution of the story which wove a delicate balance between realism and hope.

I'm not wild about the cover though. The girl doesn't look like Hattie, nor does she look accurate to the period. I think it would have been more effective with only the sky and the land. But maybe that's just me.

And...I don't know why, but I didn't LOVE this book. I liked it. I would recommend it as a different view into a certain period of history. I liked a lot of aspects. I'd say it deserves its Newbery Honor. But something kept me from fully engaging. It's entirely possible this reaction is me and not the book. I really don't know.

Book source: my school library
Recommendation source: Leila

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