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Washington Reads (Spring 2006) - The Oregon Trail

The stories of the Oregon Trail are accounts of those hardy Americans who undertook travels that presented far more hardship, illness, difficult terrain, brutal weather, and encounters with Indians than they had foreseen. They also saw amazing sights during the journey and after reaching their destinations. For most, their way of life changed dramatically. Those that were successful in making the grueling overland journey became early settlers in the Oregon Territory, which included what is now Washington. These folks had grit and endurance; traits which helped shape this state.

An image of the book cover, of A Sudden County by Karen Fisher. Fisher, Karen. A Sudden Country.

Named one of the four finalists of the celebrated 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, this is the debut novel of Karen Fisher of Lopez Island. This sweeping novel is based on the journal of Emma Ruth Ross, the author’s ancestor. Emma Ruth’s mother, Lucy Mitchell, is reluctant to leave her home in Iowa, but soon becomes immersed in another lifestyle on the trail. The book poignantly portrays a family at the end of their resources and in difficult circumstances, and their eventual settlement in the west.

An image of the book cover, The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman. Parkman, Francis. The Oregon Trail.

Parkman’s account is the acknowledged classic of the American journey in 1846, chronicling the author’s journey along a portion of the Oregon Trail. His first-person, in-depth descriptions of people and their adventures, as well as vibrant imagery of nature, bring the reader right along with him on the journey. This is a moving, eye-witness account of the adventures along the trail.

An image of the book cover, A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon, 1845 Crew, Linda. A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon, 1845.

This book will appeal to both adults and to young adults. It is a heartfelt story of one family’s journey to Oregon on the Oregon Trail as told by young Lovisa King. Based on the true story of the three-generation King family expedition, this book tells of the disastrous new route, taken as a shortcut, and the ensuing hardships. This novel is difficult to put down, from its first words "West. The sound of a wish in a single word." to the family’s arrival on Oregon soil.

O’Brien, Mary Barmeyer. Into the Western Winds: Pioneer Boys Traveling the Overland Trails.

Based on diaries, letters and memoirs, this book follows nine boys who traveled west in covered wagons. What began as a grand adventure often turned to months of treacherous travel, illness, and hard work for these pioneer boys. This book paints a realistic picture of the conditions and ultimate destination of each of the boys featured.

An image of the book cover, Toward the Setting Sun: Pioneer Girls Traveling the Overland Trails by Mary B. O'Brien O’Brien, Mary Barmeyer. Toward the Setting Sun: Pioneer Girls Traveling the Overland Trails.

This book is a rich compilation of stories of ten pioneer girls, who began their venture with fine clothes and excitement for their adventurous journey ahead. They were soon called upon to drive oxen, set up the camp, and watch over siblings in conditions which they had never imagined. Some realized a future of opportunities, while others coped with tragedy and sorrow.

Book cover image of: Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains. Hopkinson, Deborah. Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.

This is a charming tall-tale about a father who guides his family and many, many fruit trees on the journey to Oregon. They encountered numerous challenges that threaten the spunky family and their trees. All ends well, with a triumphant orchard planting in the Oregon Territory. Children will love the utter silliness and sheer fun of this illustrated tale. (Picture Book)
Illustration copyright © 2004 by Nancy Carpenter.

Book cover image of: Oregon Trail Cooking by Mary Gunderson. Gunderson, Mary. Oregon Trail Cooking.

This unique book blends historical narrative with recipes and cooking information from the Oregon Trail time period. It gives an accurate glimpse of the history, conditions, people and activities of the time. Recipes are included so that students can actually replicate the food that the settlers ate. Illustrations, a glossary and an index enhance this history of pioneer life. (Grades 3-6)