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Hattie Big Sky
Book
2006
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

In this engaging historical novel set in 1918, 16-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks leaves Iowa and travels to a Montana homestead inherited from her uncle. In the beautiful but harsh setting, she has less than a year to fence and cultivate the land in order to keep it. Neighbors who welcome Hattie help heal the hurt she has suffered from years of feeling unwanted. Chapters open with short articles that Hattie writes for an Iowa newspaper or her lively letters to a friend and possible beau who is in the military in France. The authentic first-person narrative, full of hope and anxiety, effectively portrays Hattie's struggles as a young woman with limited options, a homesteader facing terrible odds, and a loyal citizen confused about the war and the local anti-German bias that endangers her new friends. Larson, whose great-grandmother homesteaded alone in Montana, read dozens of homesteaders' journals and based scenes in the book on real events. Writing in figurative language that draws on nature and domestic detail to infuse her story with the sounds, smells, and sights of the prairie, she creates a richly textured novel full of memorable characters. --Kathleen Odean Copyright 2006 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

What dreams would lead a 16-year-old to leave her safe home in Arlington, Iowa, and take a chance on a homestead claim in Montana? Hattie Brooks, an orphan, is tired of being shuttled between relatives, tired of being Hattie Here-and-There and the feeling of being the "one odd sock behind." So when Uncle Chester leaves her his Montana homestead claim, she jumps at the chance for independence. It's 1918, so this is homesteading in the days of Model Ts rather than covered wagons, a time of world war, Spanish influenza and anti-German sentiment turning nasty in small-town America. Hattie's first-person narrative is a deft mix of her own accounts of managing her claim, letters to and from her friend Charlie, who is off at war, newspaper columns she writes and even a couple of recipes. Based on a bit of Larson's family history, this is not so much a happily-ever-after story as a next-year-will-be-better tale, with Hattie's new-found definition of home. This fine offering may well inspire readers to find out more about their own family histories. (acknowledgments, author's note, further reading) (Fiction. 12-15) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
Alone in the world, teen-aged Hattie is driven to prove up on her uncle's homesteading claim. For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends--especially Charlie, fighting in France--through letters and articles for her hometown paper. Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.
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