Welcome to this week’s edition of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and my review of a sweet historical tale. There’s also a GIVEAWAY detailed below (U.S. Addresses only).
It’s 1934, and times are tough for Trip’s family after the mill in their small Wisconsin town closes, leaving her father unemployed. Determined to provide for his family, he moves them all to Alaska to become pioneers as part of President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project. Trip and her family are settling in, except her mom, who balks at the lack of civilization. But Trip feels like she’s following in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s footsteps, and she hatches a plan to raise enough money for a piano to convince her musical mother that Alaska is a wonderful and cultured home. Her sights set on the cash prize at the upcoming Palmer Colony Fair, but can Trip grow the largest pumpkin possible–using all the love, energy, and Farmer Boy expertise she can muster? (From Penguin Random House)
MY THOUGHTS: The hardback edition came out in 2016 and last month the bright and inviting paperback version was released.
Eleven year old Terpsichore (Trip) was named after the Greek Goddess of dance and song by her mother. Trip never latched onto the parent’s aspirations for her. She’d rather create recipes and plant prize winning pumpkins. Moving to Alaska seems like a bad idea at first, but she wants to stay positive like President Roosevelt has asked on one of his radio broadcasts.
The Alaskan wilderness is no picnic for the Johnson family. Trip and her two Shirley Temple loving younger sisters and a baby brother make the most of it. Sleeping in tents without electricity and not having the comforts they had back home are trying for everyone, especially their parents. Dad wants to make it work while Mom can’t wait for a permanent return to Wisconsin to be closer to her mother.
A house and barn are built before winter weather hits. Trip also meets new friends, an annoying bug loving boy and a nice girl who loves performing. But Mom is still insistent they will leave this horrid place the following September. Trip devises a plan to change her mother’s attitude and make Palmer, Alaska their Sweet Home.
Fifty-two chapters make this a great read aloud. It’s a quiet story but one that moves along at a nice pace. I’d never heard of Roosevelt’s New Deal program that took 202 families off relief to become farmers in Alaska. Quite the undertaking.
All the characters are well thought out and their personalities will make you smile. The harsh realities are detailed and as the author states in her notes—Over fifty percent of the original colony members left within five years.
Heartfelt and endearing. Pull up a chair, a piece of pumpkin pie, and dig into this time period we should never forget.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT
SWEET HOME ALASKA by CAROLE ESTBY DAGG
- Three “ships”: Friendships, family relationships, and hardships are woven together with faith in community, making it a sweet combination.
- Trip’s collection of books and her pursuit to make a library for the residents.
- Her favorite book is Little House on the Prairie— a small tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
- Reading about life without modern day technology may have you tucking away your phone for a day. or two. It’s a great way for kids to see the past and discover that talking face to face was and still is a good way to bring positive results.
- The excellent back matter material includes Author’s Notes, Resource links, and a few of Terpschore’s recipes (whip up a batch of Jelly Moose Nose). The pages end with a song, “When it’s Springtime in Alaska.
Mrs. Wilcox touched Mother’s arm and pointed to a corner of the tent that had been cordoned off with another sheet. “There’s a chamber pot; you won’t have to find your way to the outhouse during the night.”
Was that supposed to be reassuring? One chamber pot? In a tent shared by nine people. Terpsichore’s pioneer spirit was already flagging. In reading books about the pioneer days, she had never thought about things like outhouses and chamber pots
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carole Estby Dagg also wrote the middle-grade historical novel The Year We Were Famous. She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and has lived in Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. She has degrees in sociology, library science, and accounting. She spends most of her time writing and reading, but her real-life adventures include tiptoeing through King Tut’s tomb, sandboarding the dunes of Western Australia, riding a camel among the Great Pyramids, paddling with Manta rays in Moorea, and smelling the penguins in the Falkland Islands. She is married with two children and two grandchildren. Her son lives in Palmer, Alaska, and that is what inspired her to write this story. She splits her writing time between her study in Everett, Washington, and a converted woodshed on San Juan Island. To learn more, and to download free curriculum guides, visit her website: caroleeestbydagg.com.
Make a comment below and be entered into a GIVEAWAY for a new paperback copy of SWEET HOME ALASKA (U.S. Addresses only). You can also email me with your desire to enter at gpcolo (at) gmail (dot) com. Good luck!
Note: I received a copy of the book for my honest review.