Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, 2006, 283p, rating=4
Content: Clean; Source: Own; Young Adult Fiction

For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim. "At least now my letters will be more interesting," she writes to her good friend, Charlie, who is fighting the Kaiser in France.

Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove. Her quest to make a home is championed by new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German husband, and their children. For the first time in her life, Hattie feels part of a family, finding the strength to stand up against Traft Martin's schemes to buy her out and against increasing pressure to be a "loyal" American at a time when anything--or anyone--German is suspect. Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle's claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home.

Lovingly stitched together from Kirby Larson's own family history and the sights, sounds, and scents of homesteading life, this young pioneer's story celebrates the true spirit of independence. (Front cover)

This book starts out with a letter Hattie writes to Charlie, who's off fighting in France, on December 19, 1917. They are good friends and, even though Hattie would like more, she believes he's in love with a girl named Mildred. She lives with her Uncle Holt and Aunt Ivy. Uncle Holt is good to her but Aunt Ivy is trying to get rid of her and she's currently trying to ship her off to work at a boardinghouse. Uncle Holt tells her a letter arrived and when she opens it, she's surprised to learn that an uncle she had forgotten about died and left her his claim of 320 acres in Montana. She quickly decides to go, much to Aunt Ivy's dismay and Uncle Holt's blessing.

The Mueller's met her at the station and are extremely helpful to her but when Hattie gets to her house, she's shocked to find it's really more of a shack and not in good condition at all. Her first experiences are humorous and she shows her toughness by sticking it out and working hard. 

She finds a home and gets to know the neighbors and continues to write Charlie and Uncle Holt. It seems like every time she turns around, there's a new issue for her to deal with and she finds a way to survive. 

I enjoyed Hattie's story. She showed a lot of determination and, as I thought about what I would do in her situation, I figured I'd be in tears a lot. She grows a lot throughout the book as she has to deal with real issues that seem beyond her years. I don't want to give away the ending, but it felt somewhat incomplete. There were a lot of blanks to fill in and I'm glad to say that last month, Hattie Ever After came out so there is more to her story. I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults as, like the front cover says, it shows the true spirit of independence. 


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