Sunday, November 2, 2014
A Newberry Honor book, Hattie Big Sky is based on Kirby Larson's great-grandmother's attempt to make a go of the homestead her Uncle left her in his will, so the author researched newspapers, diaries from that era to create this historical fiction. All of the book club ladies enjoyed reading his book. A couple mentioned that they felt that it was simplistic, but when they remembered it was written for young adults, then the writing style seemed appropriate.
Hattie Inez Brooks, an orphan who calls herself, Hattie Here and There, leaves her home in Iowa where she lives with distant relatives to go to Vida Montana to prove up a homesteading claim that her Uncle Chester left her when he dies. She shows true character as she faces the trying disasters of farming, gains important friendships with the neighbors, Perilee and Karl Mueller’s family, Leafie, and Rooster Jim. She learns from them all and they become like family to her. She writes home to her Uncle, who sends her letters to a local newspaper where they are published as well as a school chum, Charlie, who is serving in the armed forced during World War I.
Hattie not only learns to battle natural elements, but is also tested as she watches anti-German sentiment create difficulties for her and her friends, with German names or ancestry.
Hattie battles wolves, wild horses, drought, hail, lightening, fire, Spanish influenza, as well as prejudice for several different reasons: because she is young, a woman and because she befriends neighbors/others who were of German ancestry. And through all this she eventually loses her homestead claim, not being able to “prove up” when the time came in November. (The constant barrage of disasters reminded me of Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy Turner).
There were a few things in the book that seemed to need more research - choke cherries are not ripe until late August, early September and in war time when food was scarce it seems odd that a precious commodity such as sugar would be used to make a choke cherry pie - they are so sour you would need a lot of sugar to make them pallatable. You could make a pie from the juice fo chokecherries with tons of sugar, but not for the fourth of July! Another thing that seemed odd, was the fact thateven though Hattie had already laid hundreds of fence posts, but she got blisters five seconds into plowing. If she had really been digging holes and setting fence posts for a few months, her hands would already be very calloused. I wonder if the author has ever dug a few holes for fence posts? Just a few minor details that didn't seem to be researched enough to be accurate.
There is a second novel in this series, called Hattie Ever After and several of the ladies have either read it or are going to read it.
Lovely quotes from Hattie Big Sky:
“I will have to rely on that painful teacher, experience.”
“It seems unfair not to give credit where credit is due simply because one lacks a certain number of candles on one's birthday cake.”
"I sat quiet and alone. No tears. No shaking my fist at God. Nothing but a heavy stone in my chest that used to be a heart filled with dreams and possibilities. There should be fireworks, at least, when a dream dies. But no, this one had blown apart as easily as a dandelion gone to seed."