From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—Following in the footsteps of How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush
(National Geographic, 2008), Oregon Trail
is the fictionalized account of an overland journey in 1852, recorded by budding writer 15-year-old William Reed, whose well-to-do family "follows the siren call of opportunity" by going west. Both an editor's note at the outset and an afterword stress the fact that there is not a "single scrap" of evidence that Reed or his family ever lived but that much of what he describes in his journal "precisely matches historical records." The entries, which follow the teen from Springfield, IL, to Portland, OR, describe his family tribulations, rampant disease along the trail, perilous river crossings, interactions with Native tribes, and the exploits of a corrupt wagon master. As the title suggests, finances are kept close track of with an antique-looking ledger sheet recording the family's income and expenses on each page as they earn and lose money by restocking lost or used supplies and plying their various trades (father is a doctor and brother Nathan is a blacksmith and entrepreneur). A list of further reading and online resources is accompanied by a two-page "Encyclopedia of the Oregon Trail" that defines terminology used within the text. Richly illustrated with a mix of historically authentic lithographs and "William Reed's" drawings, this book is a colorful and lively introduction to the time period.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The exemplary How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush (2008) finds a worthy successor in this offering in the How to Get Rich series. This time the action follows young Will Reed and his family as they set off from Illinois to find their fortune along the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail. As with the previous volume, the action is humorously purported to be true, although the editors suggest viewing the story with “skeptical inquiry.” But informing Will’s impish sketches and wry journal entries is a wealth of information about life along the trail, including the construction of their “chariot,” the perilous river crossings, and threats from both cholera and the Indian attacks. An ongoing ledger calculates the family’s balance as it fluctuates from $10.70 to $3,021.70, but it’s clear that this journey is more about survival than riches. The illustrations, historical anecdotes, and run-ins with everyone from the Mormons to escaped slaves to Abraham Lincoln form a perfect blend of history and humbuggery. Grades 4-8. --Daniel Kraus