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Going West
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About the Author

Jean Van Leeuwen (jeanvanleeuwen.com) is the author of more than fifty children's books, including picture books, Easy-to-Read books, and middle-grade fiction. Ms. Van Leeuwen now lives in another small town north of New York City with her husband, Bruce Gavril. She has two grown children, David and Elizabeth, and a young grandchild, who will surely inspire more stories.

Reviews

``One day in early spring we packed everything we had into our wagon, tied our milk cow Sadie on behind, and set out to find a new home. Going West.'' Narrated by seven-year-old Hannah, so begins this haunting evocation of times past. Although Van Leeuwen sets forth a representative pioneer tale, her story of one indomitable family is rich with particulars--the hailstorm that ruins the first vegetable crop, the wildflowers that bloom ``in mounds of pink and lavender and blue, like soft pillows,'' the neighbor who brings to Hannah's cabin his flute and eventually his new wife. Into a gentle text brimming with family warmth and love, Van Leeuwen ( Dear Mom, You're Ruining My Life ; the Oliver and Amanda Pig series) packs a wealth of emotional moments--as when Mama lies down in the tall prairie grass and sighs, ``Oh my, this is a lonesome land.'' Allen's ( In Coal Country ) scumbled, subdued pastel drawings, on sepia stock, masterfully conjure up the expanse of land and feelings. Like pages torn from a frontier journal, stirring sketches and lyrical text form a moving tribute to the brave families to whom the book is dedicated. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)

Gr 1-3-- Seven-year-old Hannah describes her family's journey west and their first year of settlement on the vast American prairie. Her story includes incidents similar to those found in Laura Ingalls Wilder's ``Little House'' books (HarperCollins) and in Brett Harvey's My Prairie Year (1986) and Cassie's Journey (1987, both Holiday), but is for younger audiences. Van Leeuwen provides a more general description of settlers' lives that seems almost ahistoric; no clear place or time period is established. The family travels by Conestoga wagon, yet they make the trip alone. The distances covered seem vast, but that is perhaps due to the perspective of the young narrator. The requisite encounter with Native Americans is benign, with the family and uninvited guests sharing donuts and smiles all around. Allen's chalk illustrations on brown textured paper have a soft unfocused quality that appropriately gives the sense of being a reminiscence. Although this book does not add new material for children studying westward expansion, the simple vocabulary and evocative pictures provide a quiet beginning for general discussions about the past. --Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie

"Like pages torn from a frontier journal, stirring sketches and lyrical text form a moving tribute to the brave families to whom the book is dedicated."--Publishers Weekly

"The simple vocabulary and evocative pictures provide a quiet beginning for general discussions about the past."--School Library Journal

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