Newbery Project – Hattie Big Sky

A lovely book, and a fascinating look at the ups and downs of homesteading at the turn of the century. It was interesting to see such a familiar children’s book topic (homesteading) set in 1918 rather than the more familiar 1880’s, so that fear of grasshoppers and talk of horses were juxtaposed with automobiles and the first world war.

As I was reading at first I found myself wondering why this book garnered the Newbery Honor, but now that I am finished and as I am reflecting, I can see why. The writing was solidly good, with occasional brushes with excellent. The characterization was wonderfully done. Traft, who I thought was a bit too villainous at first, ended up being a reasonably complex character. He was angry and did hurtful things, but if I try to see the story from his perspective, I can also see why he did some of those things, and how sometimes things were out of his control.

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

The end of the book surprised me. I thought for certain that something miraculous was going to happen at the last minute to save Hattie’s claim. I’m glad that the author chose to let Hattie lose it to be true to the many, many homesteaders that did. So few books, for either young people or adults, are willing to let the main character pour their heart and soul into something, to want something more than anything else, and then deny the character. Yet that is the way real life works in so many cases. And, just as in real life, Hattie does not crumble. She keeps going, and takes from the experience strength. That’s a true pioneer spirit. END SPOILER

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