The Little Pioneer
Lincoln Children’s Books
Adam Hancher’s story, set in 19th century US, tells of one small wagon train heading off into the West and is inspired by the accounts of real-life pioneers.
Its narrator is a fiery-haired young girl who, following the death of her father, must leave everything familiar and head west to make a new life in California.
The long journey on foot, horseback and wagon with her mother, younger brothers and three other families is gruelling and full of challenges, not the least of which for the narrator at the outset, is getting used to the wild ways of their guide, Mr Reed.
However it’s not long before a treacherous swirling river forces her to change her opinion of the man and a firm bond is formed, not only between the narrator and guide but also with their fellow travellers.
Mr Reed actually becomes the girl’s saviour not once but twice during their time on the trail.
By the time their journey ends the narrator has learned SO much, not only about the wild and her fellow pioneers, but having had to stand being left alone, about herself.
The tale is beautifully told using language of the time, ‘Weary and footsore, we stopped to rest.’ but it’s Hancher’s superb artistry that make this such a compellingly beautiful book.
The girl speaks little about her loss but one senses it all around during their travels through the bleak landscapes of the journey. The dramatic, textured illustrations and Hancher’s switch of colour palette – that perilous Platte river crossing,
the family-like gathering around the camp fire …
and the bleak surrealism of the shady spot the narrator wakes in to discover her aloneness, speak for themselves.
Powerful, poignant and perfect for reading with young audiences many of whom will know little of those pioneering days, this is a book to share and savour.