From School Library Journal
Grade 3-4 Giblin bases this novel on actual historical events. In 1798, Ohio wasn't a state yet and Cleveland was just three cabins in the woods. Seth Doan lives in one of those cabins with his sister and parents. Like any youth of that time and place, the 10-year-old is well aware of how fragile life can be. A cross marks the grave of his baby brother, and he still misses the twins who died back East. When his family falls ill of malaria, the boy must make the four-mile round trip to grind corn, the mainstay of their diet. The other families also fall ill, so the settlement's survival depends on him. Giblin describes well the pioneers' spartan way of life. Seth's family owns just one book, the Bible. He loves its stories, and turns to them to calm his fears. The author's straightforward style underplays the drama that the title reflects. Like boys of his time, Seth simply does what needs to be done. Adults will admire the themes of perseverance, education, and responsibility. Young readers will enjoy the clear writing and plot-driven pace. Dooling's full-page pencil-on-paper illustrations convey the time period as well as the emotional tone. A solid choice for those seeking pioneer fiction and strong characters. Pat Leach, Lincoln City Libraries, NE
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Gr. 3-6. Giblin recounts the story of 10-year-old Seth Doan, who helped to save the early settlers of Cleveland, Ohio, during an outbreak of malaria in 1798. When the shakes and fever fell his parents and sister, only Seth is left to carry water, nurse the sick, and haul corn two miles uphill to the Kingsbury mill to be ground into cornmeal for the day's food. It's a big job for a boy, complicated by the fact that the Doans' neighbors are also sick, so he must also carry corn for them. One of Giblin's few forays into fiction, this story feels like a natural extension of his highly respected nonfiction work; the background research is still clearly evident, but added to that are some finely nuanced, believable characters. Dooling's realistic pencil illustrations, which focus on the characters and their feelings, will help younger readers to visualize the rustic setting. A welcome addition to the first-chapter-book genre and to the historical fiction shelves. Kay WeismanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved