Hattie Big Sky
Kirby Larson (Young Adult Fiction)
Hattie Inez Brooks refers to herself as Hattie Here-and-There. Orphaned before she had lost her baby teeth, she spends her years being shuffled here and there amongst various relatives’ homes. At 16, everything changes when she is left 320 acres and a house in Montana by her deceased mother’s brother, Uncle Chester. With the only thing to look forward to in Arlington, Iowa is a job at a boardinghouse, Hattie writes back, “I’ll come.” But to make her uncle’s claim her own, she has to cultivate 40 acres and lay 480 rods of fence…and she has less than a year to do it. With a strong faith and help from neighbors, can Hattie make her deepest wish a reality—to find a place to belong.
Hattie Big Sky is based on the life of Larson’s great-grandmother, Hattie Inez Brooks Wright, who herself had homesteaded as a young woman in eastern Montana. Because most of the story takes place in 1918, we see more references to automobiles than covered wagons. The United States was also embroiled in World War I and many German-born immigrants were subjected to a litany of anti-German persecution. Larson weaves all of these facts, along with the countless struggles faced by homesteaders, into a beautifully-told story of hardship, bravery, and old-fashioned grit.
Hattie is pleasantly surprised to find that a paper in Iowa is willing to pay her a monthly fee for her homesteading stories. In one such submission, she writes, “…the lesson this life has planted in my heart pertain more to caring than to crops, more to Golden Rule than gold, more to the proper choice than to popular choice.” Hattie’s lesson is one we should all strive to implant upon our own heart.
* Book cover image attributed to www.scholastic.com