From School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-When Daniel LeBlanc hears a Voice in the night warning him that his father, a widowed French trapper, is in trouble, he sets off along the Oregon Trail in search of him. It's 1844, and the 14-year-old's quest clearly conveys the extreme difficulties encountered by those who attempted to settle the American West. Daniel walks over 1000 miles, is shot at, cut with a knife, beaten, half-starved, kidnapped, and nearly sold into slavery to the Utes. He is attacked by a dangerous scar-faced man who turns out to be his uncle and who shoots Daniel's father shortly after the boy finds him. Before his death, however, his father tells Daniel that he detests the white men for their treatment of Native Americans, that he has been helping them, and that he has married an Indian woman. Daniel realizes that the West is not the barren place he has been taught in school, and returns to his aunt's Missouri farm. While the author nicely conveys the drudgery and hardship of Daniel's trip, the plot is confusing and the characters are difficult to keep straight. A concluding note states the author's intent to depict history more realistically, showing the enormous price of white settlement of the West. Too bad the story doesn't show this more clearly through the characters and their actions, rather than having the author tell readers at the end of the book.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6-9. Spooner's adventure, set around 1844, has everything: danger, Native American myth, a gritty survival struggle, a little romance, comedy, and wonderful characters, all rolled into a quick-reading, high-interest, satisfying historical novel. When 14-year-old Daniel experiences an unsettling dreamlike vision informing him that his father, Etienne, a French trapper, is in trouble, Daniel sets out to find him. His plan to join a wagon train heading west seems safe enough, but he's immediately thrust into danger when he foils a vicious horse thief, who is determined to get revenge. Children will gain a new appreciation for settlers who traveled the Oregon Trail thanks to Spooner's descriptions of their hardships, so vividly rendered that readers will feel muddy and wet themselves. Daniel's eventual discovery of his father's identity won't come as a surprise, though the conclusion may catch readers unawares, as Etienne's role in helping the Indians fight the encroaching white settlers is revealed. Without becoming pedantic, Spooner gives voice to reasons why the Indians opposed the settlers. Chris ShermanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved