Book Review: Hattie Big Sky
By: Kirby Larson
Published By: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2006
Page Count: 289
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
Montana is one of those places that creeps into your soul and refuses to let go. I haven't been lucky enough to spend a vast amount of time in Big Sky Country, but the time I have spent there will always be special. I loved the sense of freedom and the wide open spaces. The sky truly looks bigger there. Montana is beautiful and wild. In addition to the terrain, I also enjoy learning more about the history of the state. The combination of the Montana setting and the historical details made Hattie Big Sky an immensely entertaining read for me.
World War I is raging in Europe when the story opens, but life on the homefront isn't always easy. Hattie, an orphan who is living with relatives in Iowa, is on the brink of adulthood. She's trying to figure out her place in the world, but she feels like she lacks roots. She wants something that is all her own, but this proves to be difficult when even the bed you sleep in is borrowed. Life changes drastically for Hattie when she receives a letter from Montana stating that her Uncle Chester has passed away and left his homestead to her in his will. Hattie jumps at the chance to have a place of her own and prepares to make the journey from Iowa to Montana.
I loved reading about Hattie's experiences as a homesteader. I was in awe that a young girl could endure so many hardships. Hattie's bravery, courage, and compassion make her one of my favorite historical fiction characters. I wish that I had even a smidge of Hattie's gumption. She inspires me to follow my dreams and not take no for an answer.
In addition to learning about life on a claim during the early 1900's, I also enjoyed the little pieces I learned about WWI. Sadly, discrimination against Germans was an all too common occurrence in the United States during this time period. My heart broke on multiple occasions when the Muellers were treated unfairly. I think this story can teach the modern generation a lot. We may not still have German Americans who are persecuted, but differences based on race, culture, and ethnicity are far from over in the modern world. It saddens me to think that we haven't truly learned from the mistakes of the past.
In spite of the hardships and sad moments, there is a lot of joy in this novel as well. The emphasis on friendship and family is a strong theme and I enjoyed the author's commentary on the subject. Home is truly the people we surround ourselves with and not the location of our house.
I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in historical fiction, Montana, or women's social history.
One Last Gripe: I haven't been able to read the next book because I knew what I wanted for Hattie and it seems like the author went in a different direction. I want to pretend that she got the happily ever after I wanted for her.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved all the lessons I learned about hard work, friendship, and resilience. I also enjoyed the letters between Hattie and Charlie.
First Sentence: Dear Charlie, Miss Simpson starts every day with a reminder to pray for you - and all the other boys who enlisted.
Favorite Character: Hattie
Least Favorite Character: Mrs. Martin
Alone in the world, teen-aged Hattie is driven to prove up on her uncle's homesteading claim.
For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends--especially Charlie, fighting in France--through letters and articles for her hometown paper.
Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.