From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7?Except for the interest generated by the reports of cannibalism, it is unlikely that this tragic story would have gained or sustained much attention. Yet there was much more to it than the gruesome details, and the inherent drama carries readers along. Lavender avoids the sensational (as much as that is possible) and provides a clear and concise account in which cannibalism is just one more detail. Readers will come away with a much clearer understanding of the hardships and dangers of crossing the continent by wagon train?any wagon train?in the mid-19th century. The black-and-white photographs and prints used to illustrate the text are accompanied by informative captions. Neither of maps has a legend to explain the potentially confusing routes and short cuts discussed in the text. The author concentrates on the portion of the group who wintered by the lake; it was from these people that attempts to go for help originated. Less attention is given to the Donners themselves, who were trapped in the meadow camp along Alder Creek, but the basic facts are here. This is an excellent addition to existing materials on the westward movement, providing a solid treatment of an event not covered at length in other books for this age group.?Elaine Fort Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, MA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A precise, dispassionate, horrifying account of the Donner party's disastrous trek to California that will have readers counting their blessings. Inspired by a land speculator's highly misleading guidebook, the two large Donner families and several associates set out from Independence, Missouri, in May 1846, were trapped in the High Sierra by snowstorms in November, and after running out of food ate their dead (most of whom died of natural causes); only 48 of the 88 survived to cross the mountains. The episode has been thoroughly documented by contemporary reports and later research, but this book is the fullest treatment yet for younger readers. Written in a formal, just-the-facts tone, Lavender (Santa Fe Trail, 1995, not reviewed, etc.) lists names, dates, rough terrain and weather, mishaps, casualties, and decisions good and bad, making the ghoulish climax almost ordinary after the physical and psychological hardships of the journey. Sensation-seekers may be disappointed, but this book provides a vivid picture of the obstacles faced by the westward emigrants of the 19th century. (b&w illustrations, maps, index, not seen, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.