Friday, August 14, 2009

The Oregon Trail

From wagon trains to ebay. My we have come a long way! And if not for the later I might not have learned so much about the former. Here's how it happened. I was in ebay's history category under "children's books" when I stumbled upon an interesting "lot." It contained books from a couple of different series: Dear America and My Name is America. I was not familiar with either but my curiosity was piqued. I placed the winning bid, received the package and tore open the box.

The first thing I noticed is that the books are pleasant to hold.
They are light and just the right size and weight for your hands. They have an old library look and the interior has two things I can't resist: pages with rough edges and some (not My Name is America) have satin ribbon book marks. Antique photos, maps, recipes, song sheets and such are included at the end of the books. Each is a fictitious journal of a young person during a past event and is infused with historical facts. When it came time to choose one to read, I personally was not up for the Battle of Fredericksburg, or Pearl Harbor, or, least of all, the Donner Party. So for our first selection we read Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847.

Shannon and I both really enjoyed this book. Hattie shared everything. Her apprehension of leaving her home, family tales, gathering supplies, new friendship stuff, wagon train gossip, the day to day grind, her fears, sites and sounds and simple joys. Also deaths, births and a marriage along the way. By the time Hattie arrived in Oregon, we felt we had made the journey right along with her.

Ages 12 to 15


Not only have I now learned more about the Oregon Trail but also about these series' published by Scholastic. Dear America is a collection of 38 titles, each told in a young female voice. My Name is America has 19 titles told from a boy's perspective. Scholastic has also published My America books, which revolve around six different characters, and each character has a series of books. All of these books cover American events from the 1600's up to the Vietnam War. For those with an appetite for more of a world stage I would recommend looking into Scholastic's Royal Diaries series. These will introduce you to 18 ladies of royalty.

While I was investigating these titles I found a really unique game at Scholastic for the future interior decorator in your family. You pick a period and decorate the house accordingly. If you make the mistake of putting a kerosene lamp in a colonial home "A Room in Time" will prompt you.

Activity: Here is an Oregon Trail crossword puzzle, and also check out this Oregon Trail Web Site for more activities.


  1. We LOVE the Dear America series, too! They keep my thirteen year old daughter's attention very well and she just breezes through them. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post! We are reading about westward expansion right now, and I was looking for some good resources on the Oregon Trail!

  3. My 9yr old (advanced reader) LOVES these books, and we've been able to find quite a few at our public library. I think my 15yr old would like them, too, but I haven't had her read them -- yet!

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