When ten-year-old Cora and her family leave their home in Missouri, their hearts are filled with the hopes and dreams of a bright future gleaming with promise and opportunity. But the journey west by wagon train is harsh, and tragedy strikes swiftly and unexpectedly. Now Cora and her father must steel themselves for a different future from what they had carefully planned. How can they move forward when their hearts are broken? But move on they must, and Cora takes comfort in her new baby sister (named Susan after the black-eyed flowers). When Cora learns she and Susan are to be separated at the end of their journey, she looks to the past to help craft a link to their new lives.
Judy Young is an award-winning author of children's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her other books in the Tales of Young Americans series are Minnow and Rose (2010 Storytelling World Resource Award) and The Lucky Star (2009 Storytelling World Honor Award). Judy lives near Springfield, Missouri. Doris Ettlinger graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and has numerous picture books to her credit, including the award-winning The Orange Shoes. Doris lives and teaches in an old grist mill on the banks of the Musconetcong River in western New Jersey.
Gr 3-6—Ten-year-old Cora is traveling in a covered wagon with her parents on the Oregon Trail when tragedy dashes their dreams of a new beginning. The girl's mother dies in childbirth, and Cora names her blond, dark-eyed sister Susan after the black-eyed flowers she had picked for her mother along the way. One rainy day, she begins sewing quilt squares to show to the baby and commemorate the journey west. Their home in Missouri, the covered wagon, a campfire, prairie dogs, buffalo, and other animals are just some of the images captured in her squares. When her father decides that her aunt and uncle, who are heading to California, should raise Susan, a heartbroken Cora fashions the cloth squares into a book for her. Aunt Alma promises to tell the baby all about the big sister who loves her, once she is old enough to understand. Six years later, the teen passes a test to become a schoolteacher, headed south with a minister and his wife. The surprise ending, however unlikely, will warm readers' hearts. Realistic watercolor images reveal the intricacies of pioneer life and the emotional turmoil of the characters. An engaging introduction to life during the Westward expansion.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NYCopyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.