Happy May! I hope you are enjoying sunshine and flowers. We have a crazy month that we are in the middle of. But trying to find moments of joy and a little relaxing when we can.
Today I am really excited to share a review of a lovely middle grade novel that I read this year: Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg. I really enjoyed this story of Great Depression Era pioneers settling part of Alaska for the first time.
I heard about this book from the Read Aloud Revival podcast and absolutely loved it!
Book Summary: “This exciting pioneering story, based on actual events, introduces readers to a fascinating chapter in American history, when FDR set up a New Deal colony in Alaska to give loans and land to families struggling during the Great Depression
Terpsichore can’t wait to follow in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s footsteps . . . now she just has to convince her mom. It’s 1934, and times are tough for their family. To make a fresh start, Terpsichore’s father signs up for President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project, uprooting them from Wisconsin to become pioneers in Alaska. Their new home is a bit of a shock—it’s a town still under construction in the middle of the wilderness, where the residents live in tents and share a community outhouse. But Terpsichore’s not about to let first impressions get in the way of this grand adventure. Tackling its many unique challenges with her can-do attitude, she starts making things happen to make Alaska seem more like home. Soon, she and her family are able to start settling in and enjoying their new surroundings—everyone except her mother, that is. So, in order to stay, Terpsichore hatches a plan to convince her that it’s a wonderful—and civilized—place to live . . . a plan that’s going to take all the love, energy, and Farmer Boy expertise Terpsichore can muster.”
Terpsichore is a fantastic protagonist — easy to cheer for and impossible to forget. I love her name (all 3 sisters are named after myths) and how she fights for what she wants. I couldn’t help but fall in love with her story. She is immediately smitten by Alaska and wants to stay. She works so hard to grow her prize pumpkins. She works to start a library in Palmer, Alaska. She saves money to buy her mother a piano. It seems there is nothing she isn’t willing to work for! And she makes friends, loves her family, and helps create a home. Also love all her ways of cooking pumpkin and salmon! Overall, just a delightful character and so fun to read her journey.
I loved the historical details about life in Palmer Alaska at this time period. So interesting to read about pioneers in the 1930’s. It was surprising to hear how backwards things felt for them when they leave somewhat modern conveniences for Alaska. They go to a very rural location when they were used to a lot more. No more electricity, indoor plumbing, grocery stores, pianos, hospitals or schools or even houses when they arrive. The details of living in a tent were so interesting and made me grateful for modern conveniences! I loved how the community comes together to build a hospital and homes (but the snow comes too! Crazy!). Such an interesting contrast of times because they have a lot of modern amenities but have to create the right conditions for them. It was a great tribute to humanity and our ability to help each other and create better lives together.
There are so many lovely details in this story that make it memorable and inspiring. The storytelling is engaging and fun. I think the different anecdotes of life in Alaska are so interesting and surprising. Kids would love all the details! Throughout the story, we learn great morals of working hard and caring for your family and creating home wherever you live. I loved the way their family comes together and how they find joy in small things as their world is shifted and changed so drastically. These people work so hard for themselves and for those in their community. Another lovely part of the books is the great cast of characters. I really enjoyed Terpsichore’s family — twin sisters and baby brother and parents. Her grandmother from the city. Her friends Gloria and even Mendel. Their teacher. Their friend from the hills. And more. So many great people! They are all flawed in their own ways but also so relatable and kind. These are the kinds of people that we all hope to be and associate with.
This book deserves more recognition! I loved the modern pioneer story and the great characters. A great book to read with kids especially Little House on the Prairie fans. Loved this novel and hope to read with my kids someday!
What are some of your favorite pioneer stories?
What historical fiction novels have taught you about new time periods?