The Dala Horse, by Lissa Johnston
2016, 151p, Middle-grade Fiction
My Rating=5 Stars
Source: Received a copy from the author for an honest review
10-year-old Kaya Olson lives in a small Norwegian immigrant settlement in post-Civil War Texas. When her mother is killed in a stage coach robbery, Kaya feels responsible. Can she uncover the secrets her family is keeping to solve the mystery surrounding her mother's death?
I enjoy a good mystery and this book sounded intriguing. This book takes place in 1867. Kaya is 10 years old and lives in a Norwegian settlement in Texas. At the beginning, we learn that her mother has recently died. She was on her way to visit Kaya's sick grandmother when the stagecoach she was on was robbed and she was killed. Kaya and her father set off to go live with her grandmother but when they get there, Kaya learns something that concerns her. She is filled with more questions as time goes on and her strange encounter with a man named Frank leaves her more confused than ever. None of the adults are talking and she's just about given up on getting answers when something happens that can change everything. I enjoyed going on Kaya's journey with her. It was funny to read her insights and perception on some of the interactions between different adults. I loved the way her story was told and how she was given pieces to the puzzle that she couldn't fit together to make a complete picture. This book is well written and well researched and I loved it! At the end, the author has a guide for Norwegian Phrases to help understand some of the words and phrases that are used. There's also a Discussion Guide where she shares some interesting facts she came across during her research, like Customs, Stagecoaches, Land Policies, Children's Roles, Children's Games, and much more. This is a book I will read and discuss with my children. I'm excited to read more from this author in the future!
My journey to becoming a writer began with some upper level history classes in college. What used to be the most boring subject EVER was suddenly my passion, thanks to some great professors. My first books via traditional publishing were non-fiction, being the big ol' Research Nerd that I am. I enjoyed publishing books that would end up on school library shelves with my name on the spine. I spent many happy hours in the school library when I was a kid, so I had a little sentimental attachment there.
Recently I have turned my attention to fiction. I have half a dozen manuscripts in various stages of completion. First up is a middle-grade story called The Dala Horse. Think American Girl meets Nancy Drew. Drawing on my historical non-fiction roots, it is the story of a first-generation American daughter of Norwegian immigrants in post-Civil War Texas. In addition to entertaining the reader, it includes plenty of background materials in the teaching guide to educate and inform. I've self-published this book. It's available on Kindle.