Hattie Big SkySixteen-year old Hattie Brooks has been an orphan from a young age, bouncing from relative to relative. One day, out of the blue, she receives a letter from her long-forgotten uncle giving her his homestead claim in eastern Montana. He writes,
by Kirby Lawson
NY: Delacorte Press, 2006. 288 pages.
NY: Listening Library, 2007,
2007 Newbery Honor Book
ages 12 - 16
"You will think I have never thought of the niece in Iowa. But this letter will show you I have. If you come out here to Vida, you will find my claim. I trust you've enough of your mother's backbone to meet the remaining requirements. If you do - an you have one year to do it - 320 Montana acres are yours."The pull is strong - Hattie has never had a place to call her own, and this is her chance. She dives right in, not realizing what's at stake. When she arrives, she finds out that she must plant 40 acres, and build 480 rods of fence in order to "prove" her claim.
This book will appeal to girls who like historical fiction like the Little House books, Julie of the Wolves, or Island of the Blue Dolphins. Kirby Lawson, the author, has developed characters that I really cared about and could feel for. Hattie could not survive without the help and support of her neighbors, Perilee and Karl Mueller. But the year is 1916, and the United States is consumed with supporting the troops fighting in World War I. In this small Montana community, many are suspicious of Karl because of his German accent. Hattie is torn - she knows that Karl is a good man, but should she risk her own safety to stand up to him?
I loved the suspense in seeing whether Hattie could "prove" her claim, and watching Hattie grow as she understands the discrimination against Karl and stands up to it. I also really liked how this book is not about easy answers or happy endings. Here's a book trailer put together by the Palos Verdes Library District, and gives a nice feel.
To read this book, you can look at Google Books. To read another review, check out Everyday Reading: "This was the perfect weekend book - real, honest, and so likable I wanted to cry." Another fun review is by Betsy Bird at Fuse#8: "I mean, isn’t this one of the coolest ideas? You strike out into the great big world, just you and your cat, to make a living. You’re young and you tend your homestead and deal with nature one-on-one." My copy came in hardback and audio CD from our local library. You can find it at your local public library, independent bookstore or Amazon.