Monday, July 25, 2016
MMGM: Sweet Home Alaska
I initially saw this book at a library other than my own. I knew from the title and the comparison to Little House that I would love it and went home and put it on hold at my library. But that was three months ago! Finally, it came in. Of course, long hold times are almost always a sign of a good book.
It certainly was for this one.
Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):
This exciting pioneering story, based on actual events, introduces readers to a fascinating chapter in American history, when FDR set up a New Deal colony in Alaska to give loans and land to families struggling during the Great Depression.
Terpsichore can’t wait to follow in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s footsteps . . . now she just has to convince her mom. It’s 1934, and times are tough for their family. To make a fresh start, Terpsichore’s father signs up for President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project, uprooting them from Wisconsin to become pioneers in Alaska. Their new home is a bit of a shock—it’s a town still under construction in the middle of the wilderness, where the residents live in tents and share a community outhouse. But Terpsichore’s not about to let first impressions get in the way of this grand adventure. Tackling its many unique challenges with her can-do attitude, she starts making things happen to make Alaska seem more like home. Soon, she and her family are able to start settling in and enjoying their new surroundings—everyone except her mother, that is. So, in order to stay, Terpsichore hatches a plan to convince her that it’s a wonderful—and civilized—place to live . . . a plan that’s going to take all the love, energy, and Farmer Boy expertise Terpsichore can muster.
What I loved:
1. A real historical event that I knew little about. I really enjoyed learning about the Palmer settlement in Alaska as part of FDR’s New Deal. I also enjoyed how the author had cameos with real historical figures, even Will Rodgers!
2. A setting dear to my heart. I was so excited when I read the author’s bio to see that she lives very near where I grew up. Then the book described Seattle (about an hour from my hometown). And then the settlement is near Wasilla, where my best friend lives. It’s always refreshing to get a break from stories set in New York or the East Coast and see the Northwest and Alaska featured in kidlit.
3. An endearing, bug-loving sidekick. Mendel, one of Trip’s friends, may not mean as much to other readers. But his quoting of bug facts and their scientific names is just like my younger son. I also enjoyed how this amateur entomologist helps Trip with her pumpkin project. It was also refreshing to see a boy and girl this age as friends without any hints of romance.
4. Everyday stakes. This is one of those novels that remind me that you don’t have to have kids saving the world from an evil villain to have high stakes and an interesting read. I loved how Trip was trying to make life better for her family, especially her mom.
5. A strong family. So many kidlit authors either kill off the parents or make them horrid, so that the main character can be free to solve his or her problems. I loved how Dagg made Trip independent and feisty, but never truly at odds with her parents—and how her parents are imperfect, but always loving.
My only disappointment with this book was that I wished Terpsichore had a shorter name, so I hope she will forgive me for referring to her by her hated nickname in this review. But it’s certainly one of the most memorable middle grades I’ve read in awhile. It reminded me a lot of HATTIE BIG SKY, another more “modern” pioneer story, also based on real events.
Have you read any good historical fiction lately?
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To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.