After decades of being a successful teacher and educational consultant, Kay Winters, turned her attention to writing children’s books in a variety of genres. Her latest book, Voices from the Oregon Trail (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014 Illustrated by Larry Day) introduces young readers to the daily struggles of traveling along the Oregon Trail in 1848. After doing extensive research and visiting notable landmarks, Kay skillfully recreated a cross-section of fictionalized stories of people who traveled together by wagon train. Each personal narrative is concise, approximately 6 short paragraphs. These brief texts are enhanced by Larry Day’s full-page watercolor illustrations.Picture
The first and last story focus on Carl Hawks, the son of the wagon train’s captain. He peaks the young readers curiosity, by asking 3 questions.
- Will anyone catch cholera or measles?
- Will we bury many along the trail?
- Who will have a baby or get married?
The other 15 individuals answer those questions and provide a cursory understanding of the perils associated with traveling across the US in the 1840s. Almost half of the monologues illustrate a female perspective.
In Mary Hastings’ narrative, Kay captures the horror of losing a small child while crossing a river.
“The wagon jerks, a sickening lurch.
Caleb slips over the side.
I stand and scream…
Caleb… Caleb… Where’s my boy!
Captain Hawks, Nate and Amos go after him.
But Caleb’s gone… vanished…disappeared.
Swallowed by dark water.”
Kay also includes one Native American, a Sioux scout. He watches the wagons pass by and wonders what will occur next.
Both the front and back inside covers showcase a map of the trail and sketches of the characters. Children unfamiliar with the Oregon Trail will be able to visualize the length of the journey and the landmarks that are highlighted in the story.
Young readers will struggle with comprehending how all of the characters are interconnected. A diagram and a time line would have been a useful aid. I found myself taking a few notes so that I could see how the characters were related and better absorb the chronology of events.
Two and a half pages of historical notes enable readers to gain a better understanding of the Oregon Trail. Kay also shares a list of resources for children who want to learn more about this time period.
Anyone seeking a picture book that focuses on the 19th century westward migration should check out this new historical fiction resource. It would supplement any age-appropriate non-fiction books. It should be noted that Voices From the Oregon Trail was selected by the Junior Library Guild in 2014.
Wolf Watch, Abe Lincoln, My Teacher for President- Bank Street- Best Books
Abe Lincoln, Voices of Ancient Egypt– Chicago Public Library Best Books
Abe Lincoln, CCBC Best Books- Junior LibraryGuild.
Voices of Ancient Egypt– Booklist- Ed Choice, ALA & CBC- Notable Social Studies Book
Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak– Teacher’s Choice, IRA, Winner of Carol Otis Hurst Children’s Book Prize
The Bears go to School. Teacher’s Choice. IRA.
Voices of the Oregon Trail . Junior Library Guild.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, June 1 will be eligible for a book giveaway. The randomly selected winner will be sent an autographed copy of one of Kay Winters’ books.