Book Review- Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Larson, Kirby.2008. Hattie Big Sky. New York, New York: Yearling Books. ISBN 0385735952
b. Plot Summary
The story of sixteen year old Hattie takes place during World War I in America. Ever since Hattie lost her parents when she was five years old, she has been shipped from one relative to another. Tired of being “Hattie Here-and-There,” she bravely moves from Iowa to Montana to live on her own on an inherited homestead. In order to keep the home, Hattie is forced to fence and cultivate the land in less than a year. Between correspondence from a “beau” in the army and her new neighbors, Hattie begins to heal from the wounds of suffering and unwantedness that have plagued her since her parent’s passing.
c. Critical Analysis
Using research from archives and family records, Kirby Larson uses brilliant figurative language to portray Hattie’s experience transitioning from girl to young woman on a Montana homestead. Larson shares with the reader the bigotry felt towards those of German descent, challenges of homestead life, and the ups-and-downs of being a teenager. The day-to-day life of Hattie is simple, yet complex, and thoroughly engaging.
One thing to note, the recommended age is 9 and up; however, for a true appreciation of this novel and the protagonist, I would recommend 12 and up. The history of the war will not seem so overwhelming and Hattie will appear more personable to an older reader.
d. Review Excerpts
· Starred review on School Library Journal “Larson creates a masterful picture of the homesteading experience and the people who persevered.”
· Starred review on Booklist “…richly textured novel full of memorable characters.”
· Historical novels are a great way to encourage the research process. Students could continue learning about the homesteading experience or the history of World War I.
· Author study of Kirby Larson’s historical novels:
o The Dear America: The Fences Between Us. ISBN 0545224187
o Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival ISBN 080279747