“Hattie Big Sky,” by Kirby Larson is a Newberry Honor Award winning historical fiction novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who moves to Montana by herself to live on a land claim and prove it.
Hattie Brooks was orphaned at a young age, and as a result she has spent most of her life being shuttled from relative to relative. Her relatives view her as an annoyance, especially her aunt, who wants her to work as a maid.
When one of Hattie’s Uncles dies he leaves her his land claim, 320 acres of land in Montana. There is only one problem, this land is way out in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest town. In addition, the land won’t really belong to Hattie unless she can meet the country’s requirements, which involve fencing off a large portion of it and cultivating at least forty acres of the land.
Hattie is determined to be able to live on her own, though, so she leaves her aunt behind and sets off for Montana, sure that she will be a success as a farmer. When Hattie arrives she begins the hard work that will be required before the land is hers. The harsh Montana weather, a mean spirited cow, and her bad cooking are all obstacles to be dealt with. At the same time Hattie must worry about her friend Charlie, who is fighting against the Germans in France.
But Hattie has the help of caring friends, Perilee Mueller and her German husband. During Hattie’s first few weeks in Montana the Mueller family helps Hattie with sound advice and caring concern. All too soon, though, Hattie finds herself helping the Muellers.
With World War I at its peak many of the people in Hattie’s small rural community hate all Germans, including the Mueller family. Hattie must walk a very fine line to support and defend her friends, the Muellers, while at the same time keeping the local “Council of Defense” from thinking that she is not a “loyal” American because of her friendship with the Muellers.
In the end, when disaster strikes, Hattie will discover the full meaning and scope of friendship, while at the same time never losing hope in the possibilities around her.
“Hattie Big Sky” is a great novel, with all the ingredients needed to make it interesting. The main character Hattie is strong and capable, and her zeal and determination make “Hattie Big Sky” an inspiring story. Interestingly the story is based on the life of author Kirby Larson’s great-grandmother, who really did homestead by herself in eastern Montana.
The historical aspects of the plot are very believable, making it interesting to read about life on a homestead during the first world war. I feel that “Hattie Big Sky” is a great book for all young readers to enjoy.
Inkweaver Review Rating:
Inkweaver Review 2010-11-09T07:57:00-06:00