The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Pioneers, Lewis & Clark, and the Oregon Trail - January 2008

Selected and annotated by Kathryn Kohl


Arrington, Frances. Prairie Whispers. Philomel Books, 2003. Gr. 5-8.
The pioneer prairie life of the 1860’s in South Dakota is depicted in this fictional account of a 12 year old girl named Colleen. A suspenseful tale of secrets involving a baby swap and a cruel father pushes Colleen to evaluate her core values and mature throughout the tale.

Calabro, Marian. The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party . Clarion Books, 1999. Gr. 5-9.
The winter of 1846/1847 was especially fierce for the members of the Donner Party – traveling to California on a new westward “short-cut.” This book recounts their trek through the use of letters and diaries written by the survivors. Contains listings of all the people and a chronology of the events – very useful as a historical reference.

Cannon, A. E. Charlotte’s Rose. Wendy Lamb Books, 2002. Gr. 5-8.
The story of 13 year old Charlotte and her hand-cart journey across the West in the 1850’s. Rose is the baby she offers to take care of on the journey, and the book provides a glimpse of a young girl’s challenges of growing up on the trail.

Erdrich, Lise. Sacagawea; illus. by Julie Buffalohead. Carolrhoda Books, 2003. Gr. 3-6.
A fascinating biographical picture book of the story of Sacagawea, including her time spent with the Corps of Discovery. Buffalohead’s colorful illustrations help bring life to her journey from childhood to old age – a Shoshone woman’s lifetime of challenges, motherhood, and adventure in the early 19 th century.

Fisher, Leonard Everett. The Oregon Trail . Holiday House, 1990. Gr. 5-8.
Fisher put together an excellent historical overview of the Oregon Trail complete with lots of maps, photographs and illustrations to complete the picture. Includes the perspective of both the pioneers and the Native Americans.

Gerrard, Roy. Wagons West! Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996. 5-8 yrs.
A marvelous rhyming picture book of a pioneering tale, complete with cherubic illustrations of pioneers and others met on the trail. A girl and her family make the trek to the Willamette Valley after tackling the challenges that are too numerous to tally.

Greenberg, Judith E. and Helen Carey McKeever. A Pioneer Woman’s Memoir: based on the Journal of Arabella Clemens Fulton. Franklin Watts, 1995. Gr. 7-12.
A rich memoir of a pioneer woman traveling from Missouri to Idaho on the Oregon Trail in 1864. Includes illustrations and is one book in the In Their Own Words Series created by editors Greenberg and McKeever.

Harness, Cheryl. The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and the Faithful History of the Oregon Trail . National Geographic Society, 2006. Gr. 5-8.
Harness writes the tale of Narcissa Whitman and her missionary adventures on the Oregon Trail in the 1830’s. Entertaining and educational, with a historical timeline running across the bottom of the pages, this book richly incorporates text from diaries and other accounts of this perilous trek.

Hopkinson, Deborah. A Packet of Seeds; illus. by Bethanne Andersen. Greenwillow Books, 2004. 5-8 yrs.
Younger readers will enjoy Hopkinson’s moving tale of pioneers and a daughter’s gift of flowers for a mother missing her past home and family. The colorful illustrations by Bethanne Andersen add to the beauty and pathos of this story.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains; illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004. 5-8 yrs.
The long title makes for an enticing entrance to this entertaining book about a nursery wagon full of young fruit trees (accompanied by a family) on its treacherous journey to Oregon in 1847. It is based on a true story.

Lawlor, Laurie. He Will Go Fearless. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006. Gr. 6-9.
An adventure story of Billy, a fifteen year old boy, journeying westward to Montana to find his birth father. Comedic and fast paced, this book depicts the trials and tribulations of the trail.

Schanzer, Rosalyn. How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis & Clark. National Geographic Society, 1997. Gr. 3-6.
A chronology of the events of the Lewis & Clark Expedition told in the form of a diary. The whole journey is mapped out in the endpapers, and the colorful illustrations, combined with short passages of text help make the book visually enticing for younger readers.

Stanley, Diane. Roughing it on the Oregon Trail, illus. by Holly Berry. Joanna Cotler Books, 2000, 6-9 yrs.
A magical tale of twins traveling back through time to travel the Oregon Trail as pioneers, aided by their grandmother’s magical hat. Facts are mixed with fictional dialogue and bright illustrations for a rich, historical journey for a younger audience.

Wadsworth, Ginger. Words West: Voices of Young Pioneers. Clarion Books, 2003. Gr. 5-8.
A wonderful mixture of information and true tales of pioneer children traveling westward between 1840 and 1870. Organized by topics such as “chores and chow” or “over mountains,” this book is sure to have a section of interest for all readers.

Wolf, Allan. New Found Land : Lewis and Clark ’s Voyage of Discovery . Candlewick Press, 2004. Gr. 6-10.
A unique telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition in verse. The cast of characters of the Corps of Discovery are all there, including the dog!

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