Monday, June 15, 2015

Oregon Trail: The Road to Destiny

Oregon Trail: The Road to Destiny is the account of 11 year-old Rebecca Weston's family's trek across the USA from Baltimore to Oregon in 1848. It is chock full of historical details, family drama, sadness, triumph, trials, and tribulations. At the beginning when the family prepares for the journey, it feels much like the classic video game about the same topic, but as matters progress I felt more and more connected to this family and their experiences.

I love the simply realistic artwork, here in black and white. It very much captures the grit and texture of life in the 19th century with its cross hatching. Traveling by wagon train was no easy thing, and the rigor and hardship, both physical and mental, is well portrayed. The artwork also is great at relaying the characters' emotions and capturing the various vistas and cityscapes the Weston family find themselves in.

Although this book is fictional, it is based on many different journal accounts of similar trips west. It is also very well researched, which is evident in scenes based on photographs, several maps, and occasional infographics such as the following one about the Pawnee:
I feel it would be an excellent addition to any classroom library and well suited for use in upper elementary or middle school classrooms.

This book's authors, writer Frank Young and artist David Lasky, also collaborated on The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song.  The book's creators also have a blog that shows pictures in process, lots of photo references for the book's images, various school signings, and other interesting goings-on related to this book.

I could not find many reviews for this book, which is unfortunate given how well done it is, but the two I found were very positive. Teddy Rose wrote, "I didn't pay that much attention to history in school.  I found the old text books dull and boring.This book is very engaging." Corey Blake commented that Young and Lasky "tell an engaging story" and that the book is "targeted to preteens but it’s smart enough for older readers."

Oregon Trail: Road to Destiny was published by Sasquatch Books and they have more info here. There is a preview available at Amazon.

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