Congress has ruled that settlers in Kansas Territory will decide whether Kansas will enter the Union as a free or a slave state. Charlie Keller's papa is an abolitionist, and he's moving the family to Kansas so he can cast his vote for freedom.
Papa and Momma, big sister Ida Jane, even baby Sophie, seem excited about being pioneers -- but not Charlie. Why couldn't they stay back home in Massachusetts with Grandpa and with Charlie's beloved old dog, Danny, who is too old to make the trip? Turning the wild Kansas prairie into a farm is hard work, filled with worries and danger. Will Kansas ever feel like home to Charlie?
From Publishers Weekly
Hopkinson (Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt) introduces the Prairie Skies trilogy with this solid chapter book set in 1855. After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, eight-year-old Charlie's abolitionist parents decide to move their three children from Massachusetts to Kansas. Members of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, they hope to help vote that western territory into the Union as a free state. Distraught that he must leave his aging dog and beloved grandfather, Charlie is partially consoled by his grandfather, who gently and eloquently reassures him that the Kansas sky is the same sky that covers Massachusetts: "If you ask me, the sky's a lot like love. It just spreads out over folks no matter how far apart they are." The author delivers several suspenseful plot twists along with the historical facts. Charlie almost falls through the ice on a frozen pond, loses track of his younger sister while minding her during their journey west and helps extinguish a prairie fire that threatens their half-built cabin. Distinguished by taut sentences well tailored to the audience, this informative tale rolls at a promising clip. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 6-9.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4-The Kansas territory is brought to life in this breezy and appealing first installment in a chapter-book series focusing on the prairie. In 1855, Charlie and his abolitionist family leave Massachusetts to join other New Englanders who want to create a free state in Kansas. The eight-year-old is reluctant to leave his home, his grandfather, and his dog, and is unsure what all the antislavery talk means. The story follows the Kellers' travels by train, steamboat, and wagon. Once at their destination, they must struggle to establish a farm and build a cabin before the onset of winter. Told in brief chapters, the story is related in simple and straightforward language. Slavery and abolitionists are explained succinctly and clearly. The chapters flow smoothly into one another, and the continuous action will keep readers hooked. Charlie is an appealing character, and through his eyes, children see some of the harsher aspects of prairie life-from sickness; fire; and worries about food, money, and shelter to some of its beauty, including the vast, blue prairie sky. Readers will eagerly await the next episode in this adventurous series.
Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 2-4. When the first book in the Prairie Skies series opens, it's 1885, and Charlie Keller's family is leaving Massachusetts with other abolitionists bound for Kansas to prevent its becoming a slave-holding state. Charlie's concerns are more immediate--he is distressed to leave his grandfather and old dog, and the train and steamboat rides are exhausting, filthy, and tedious. The characters are engaging-- especially Charlie; his two sisters, Ida Jane and Sadie; and his new puppy, Lion--and the story ends on a note that's designed to hook readers into the next volume. As with books in Kathleen Duey's Unicorn's Secret series, this Ready for Chapter Books entry breaks a long story into manageable parts for younger readers who may find a full-length novel too daunting. An author's note at the end explains Hopkinson's loving research and nicely distinguishes between fact and fiction for children just learning about historical fiction. Susan Dove Lempke
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