by Eve Bunting
This is the story of a family that moves west across the plains in a covered wagon: a father, expectant mother and two daughters. They settle on a claim in Nebraska Territory, but there are no near neighbors. The pictures show how wide, flat and empty the land seems. The older girl narrates the story, telling how lonely they feel. They have to do everything for themselves: sow the crops, dig a well, build a house. When driving three hours to the nearest homestead they can no longer see their sod home, swallowed up in the expanse of prairie grasses. Near the end of the book the older girl accompanies her father into town while her mother and younger sister stay with neighbors (there\’s some sibling jealousy here!) She\’s anxious about leaving her mom and sister behind, but excited to see the town. It\’s full of shops, dust and strangers. Just as they are leaving to return home, she spots a clump of bright yellow flowers growing in a corner- dandelions. She wants to dig them up and take home to her mother. Of course we see dandelions as a pesky weed, but the tough plant was a spot of brightness to them. And it made me smile to see what they did with the flowers: planted them on the sod roof of the house! So they could see it from afar, a bright patch of gold above the prairie grass. The illustrations are oil paintings by Greg Shed, with lifted out areas that show the texture of canvas underneath. I remember learning this painting method in art school and I really admire how it\’s done here.
Rating: 4/5 52 pages, 1995