Hattie Big Sky
Hattie Big Sky , Kirby Larson, Delacorte Press, New York, 2006
Grade Level: 6-8
ISBN & Cost: 0385903324 $15.95
Blanket Permission to Reproduce Book Jackets:
Preferred wording: Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson, Delacorte Press© 2006, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.
Synopsis: Hattie Brooks is a sixteen year old orphan who inherits a homestead claim in Vida, Montana, from her uncle in 1917. She has always wanted a home of her own and she sees this as a chance to finally belong somewhere. Her efforts to prove the homestead before the deadline in 10 months while coping with the effects of World War I on her community and her school friend Charlie who is stationed in France are described in both letters and first person narrative.
This is an excellent book which has won numerous awards. It describes the challenges and joys of the experience of homesteading during World War I and it shows the effect of the war effort on the people left at home. The anti-German feelings and the effect of mob action were described as well as the sacrifices the families made to help the war effort. It also shows the changes this experience caused Hattie as she struggles to learn what to do, accomplish those tasks and survive the dangers and difficulties that come her way. Her growth in both ability and understanding make it a very good coming of age story.
Themes: Self-reliance; Frontier and pioneer life; Orphans; Montana – History – 20th Century; World War, 1914-1918 – United States
Author Information: Kirby Larson’s great-grandmother, Hattie Inez Brooks Wright actually did homestead a claim in eastern Montana during this time period as a single woman. She did not leave a journal and the author used other homesteaders’ journals and writings as a basis for this story. Many of the incidents in the book are taken from real happenings that the author uncovered in her three years of research. Kirby Larson lives in Kenmore, Washington with her husband and has two grown children. For more information see the author’s website at www.kirbylarson.com .
Discussion Questions: (Standard 3 Benchmark 3)
- Why did Hattie think of herself as Hattie Here-and-There? How did Hattie’s experiences shape her hopes and dreams? How did they help her?
- What was Hattie looking for when she went to Montana? What did the railroad brochures promise? What did she actually find?
- What kind of problems did the people in Montana face because of the war?
- How do you think the war brought out both the good and the bad in people? How did Hattie react to the bullies she encountered?
- What do you think happened next in Hattie’s life? What adventures would you like to read about?
- Research homesteading rules and find copies of real homestead claims. What is required to prove up a claim? How long did they have? How many actually succeeded? Why did some fail? (Standard 1 Benchmark 1)
- Research the effects of World War I on the people in the US. How many people were sent overseas. How many deaths and injuries occurred in combat? What struggles did the people who stayed home face? What were Liberty Bonds? (Standard 1 Benchmark 1)
- Research your own family. Where did your ancestors come from originally? What were they doing during this time period? Is there anyone in your family tree that you’d like to know more about? Ask your parents or relatives about this person or do research in the genealogy section of your library. (Standard 3 Benchmark 3)
- Try some of the recipes in the back of the book and look up other recipes for doing without rationed ingredients. What ingredients were substituted for sugar or wheat or any of the other rationed items? How were scarce items rationed? Look for copies of ration books or rules from this time period. (Standard 6 Benchmark 2)
Similar Books for Further Reading:
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Nacky Patcher and the curse of the dry-land boats , a novel by Jeffrey Kluger
The extraordinary adventures of Alfred Kropp by Richard Yancey
Billy Creekmore : a novel by Tracey Porter
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The Laura Ingalls Wilder books