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Hattie Big Sky Hardcover – September 26, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Hattie Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this engaging historical novel set in 1918, 16-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks leaves Iowa and travels to a Montana homestead inherited from her uncle. In the beautiful but harsh setting, she has less than a year to fence and cultivate the land in order to keep it. Neighbors who welcome Hattie help heal the hurt she has suffered from years of feeling unwanted. Chapters open with short articles that Hattie writes for an Iowa newspaper or her lively letters to a friend and possible beau who is in the military in France. The authentic first-person narrative, full of hope and anxiety, effectively portrays Hattie's struggles as a young woman with limited options, a homesteader facing terrible odds, and a loyal citizen confused about the war and the local anti-German bias that endangers her new friends. Larson, whose great-grandmother homesteaded alone in Montana, read dozens of homesteaders' journals and based scenes in the book on real events. Writing in figurative language that draws on nature and domestic detail to infuse her story with the sounds, smells, and sights of the prairie, she creates a richly textured novel full of memorable characters. Kathleen Odean
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


★ “Larson creates a masterful picture of the homesteading experience and the people who persevered.”–School Library Journal, Starred

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 700L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (September 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385733135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385733137
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,513,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Imagine that you're a children's librarian surrounded by piles and piles of books for kids, all published in the year 2006. How do you choose amongst your various titles to figure out what to read next? Do you pluck up the books with the shiny foil covers and catchy titles? Do you zero in on the 400+ page titles that all have "Book One" or "First In the [blank] Trilogy" somewhere on the cover? Do you stick only to those books written by authors you've loved time and again? For me, the decision to sit down and read, "Hattie Big Sky" was helped immensely by this first sentence on the authorial bookflap: "Thanks to her eighth-grade teacher, Kirby Larson maintained a healthy lack of interest in history until she heard a snippet of a story about her great-grandmother's homesteading by herself in eastern Montana." And we're off! As someone who also couldn't have cared less about history and historical fiction for most of her natural born life, Larson's declaration right from the start that history was never her bag came as quite the wake-up call. Plus the result of her newfound interest in history is this remarkable little book recounting a single girl's wish to go out into the world and prove herself to others. You couldn't have it any other way.

It's December in 1917. American involvement in WWI is in full swing and Hattie Brooks has just found herself the proud new owner 320 acres of land on a homestead claim in Montana. Left to her by a hitherto unknown uncle, this unexpected inheritance is just the thing Hattie's been looking for. Orphaned when she was young, the girl has bounced from family member to family member so often that she feels a little like Hattie Here-and-There. Now, with a big beautiful piece of land entirely her own she feels like she's Hattie Big Sky.
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Format: Hardcover
To me, the main criteria for a good book is a cast of great characters, and this book definitely has that. Hattie is a very mature 16-year-old. She is an orphan who has been raised by first one relative and then another, and now she finds that she has inherited a homestead from an uncle that she never really knew. Her best friend has just joined the army to go fight the Kaiser in Germany at the outbreak of World War I. Hattie boards a train with her cat, Mr. Whiskers, to claim her new home in Montana.

When she arrives, she discovers that she will be required to finish "proving up" on the homestead...build an enormous amount of fence, and plant eighty of the three-hundred-and-twenty acres in wheat and flax, and she only has eight months left to accomplish this. The house is a one-room cabin that is barely habitable, and winter has Montana in its grip. Her livestock consists of a very congenial horse, and a contentious cow.

Hattie is a very resourceful girl, but life is difficult. Most of her new neighbors become fast friends, but some desperately want to claim her land for their own. Her dear friends, the Mullers, suffer bad treatment because of their German heritage and the War.

This is a fast-paced story of adventure with friendship, heartbreak, and joy. The believable characters will remain with you long after you have read the book, and the handsome villain isn't all bad. The suspense in this very entertaining book builds to a surprising climax that I didn't anticipate. Larson adds a couple of interesting-looking recipes in the back of the book that I'm anxious to try out, along with a bibliography of other great reading about the American West and homesteading.

Reviewed by: Grandma Bev
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Format: Hardcover
"Hattie Big Sky" is highly recommended for children ages 10 and up.

Hattie Brooks has moved from relative to ever-more-distant relative most of her young life. When she is sixteen years old, she reaches the end of her line with Aunt Ivy and Uncle Holt (he's a distant cousin). Or so she thinks. Just as Aunt Ivy is about to send her off to work as a maid, Hattie Brooks receives a letter informing her that her mother's brother left her a land claim in Montana. She has one year to work the land, make it profitable, fence it off, pay her taxes and it will be hers. Hattie takes her chances and the train out West.

Hattie arrives to Wolf Point, Montana where she is met by Perilee and Karl Mueller, her homesteading neighbors, and their three children, Chase, Mattie, and Fern. They help her settle in her Uncle's "house," and show her how to survive the winter and care for the horse and cantankerous cow. Even the children know more than Hattie: Chase has to detach Hattie from the well pump on her very first day. Though life is hard, Hattie is up to the challenge and works to survive on her own.

Kirby Lawson has created a wonderful character in Hattie. She's a tough girl, willing to work to make it on her own. But, Hattie is more than just determination--she's also kind and compassionate without being silly or sentimental. In 1917 Montana, anti-German sentiment is strong, yet Hattie stands up to her wild Montana neighbors and supports her friend Karl Mueller when he's attacked, both physically and verbally, for being German-born. Even Hattie's feelings for her school friend, Charlie, who is away at the front, are true to character:

"So maybe I did spend a night now and then dreaming silly girl dreams about him, even though everyone knew he was sweet on Mildred.
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