09 December 2008

Easy Reader Review: Journey of a Pioneer by Patricia J. Murphy

As the only Cybil nominated title in the Easy Reader category that could be classified as non-fiction, Journey of a Pioneer tells the story of Olivia Clark, a young girl living in Elk Grove, Missouri in 1845. The story is told in diary format. On March 23, Olivia learns that she and her parents are going to head out west to the Oregon Territory where land is plentiful. From April 10 to September 28, Olivia keeps a record of the family's journey. Her entries provide a look at life on the trail and are the means through which author Patricia J Murphy inserts historical facts and anecdotes. Little details like Olivia's amazement at her father's tears when they leave Missouri, or watching her mother have to abandon her stove and trunk so that the wagon can ascend a steep hill, help to make the narrative more personal to the reader. Published by Dorling Kindersley, the book maintains many of the hallmarks of its popular Eyewitness series, combining colorful illustrations, photographs, and fact boxes. There is plenty of white space and a fluid layout so that readers are not overwhelmed by the amount of text, which is considerable for a level 2 book. A page of Pioneer Facts, which a grown-up would have to read, and an index are included at the end. All in all, this is a serviceable introduction to both historical fiction and readable non-fiction.

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