Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky

Kirby Larson
For ages 12 and up
Random House, 2006   ISBN: 978-0385733137

For most of her sixteen years Hattie Brooks has lived on the charity of others. Most of the time the relatives she has lived with have gone out of their way to make sure that Hattie knows how grateful she should be to them for their kindness to her. Patiently she bares this humiliating treatment, doing her best and knowing that, as an orphan with no guardian, she has no choice but to take what she is given.

Then one blessed day in 1917 she gets a letter. It would appear that her uncle Chester has left her 320 acres in Montana. There is a house - of sorts - on the claim, a barn, a steadfast range horse, and a very difficult cow. This is Hattie’s one chance to get her freedom, to have a home of her own, and she seizes it even though she knows nothing about homesteading and how to raise crops. Hattie knows that she has to meet certain “requirements” before she can really call the land her own but she does not care how many miles of fence she has to put up or how much land she has to sow with flax. At least what is there will be hers.

Luckily for Hattie she has the kindest of neighbors who help her in every way they can. There is Perilee Mueller and her family, Rooster Jim, and Leafie, kind people who advise Hattie, support her, and help her with some of the harder farm work. Hattie becomes especially fond of Perilee, her children, and her German husband Karl. She knows that she owes a great deal to these good people who help her even when they face so many problems of their own.

Like so many other people in America Hattie has a friend who is fighting against the Kaiser somewhere in Europe. Hattie believes herself to be a patriot but she is appalled when Karl becomes the victim of anti-German attacks. She cannot understand how anyone could want to hurt gentle Karl and she finds herself thinking about this war which is causing so many people such hardship and unhappiness.

Set against the backdrop of World War I, this is a powerful story about a young woman who is looking for her own place in the world. Hattie learns that even though she may not win every battle that she chooses to fight, so long as she has the love and friendship of others, she cannot really feel that she has failed. She has every reason to feel proud of what she does achieve and to feel empowered by the friendship that she receives.

Based on the story of the author’s own great-grandmother, this is a moving and enriching novel which will show young women that success need not be measured in terms of what they own and how much they are worth.