A Cross Country Walk To New York City

The Year We Were Famous
by Carole Estby Dagg is a page-turning historical fiction choice for children from fifth grade and up. It is 1896. The crops have failed and the Estbys are about to lose the farm. Unless. . . after coming out of a deep depression, Ma has a manic plan that might work. She has wagered with a publisher in New York City that if she walks without assistance cross country from Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City in just seven months, she will win $10,000, enough to pay off the mortgage. They are allowed only $5.00 cash to begin with, and the rest of any future necessities must be earned or otherwise acquired along the way.

Her daughter Clara persuades the family to let her accompany her Mom for her protection and off they start from their little Norwegian settlement in western Washington, equipped with warm coats and new boots, walking sticks, and satchels, hand-carrying their supplies. The weather is fine and they have high hopes. But reality sets in too quickly as they endure rain, snow, mountain climbs, flooding rivers, curious Native American tribes, feverish illness, a sprained ankle and more. Clara, an aspiring reporter, journals it all. Her journal entries, along with some insertions of her mother's letters back and forth to the publisher, as well as occasional correspondences from home, are the format for the story.

The story, based on the true story of the author's great aunt and great grandmother's adventure, will keep the reader engaged throughout, waiting to find out if they will make it despite dismal odds. Besides the survival theme, there is a romantic thread as well as Ellie struggles with her attraction to the exciting young reporter in Salt Lake City, while steadfast Erick is waiting to make her a farm wife when she returns home.

The authors website can be visited here. She does classroom visits. I loved the book so much that I emailed her the night I finished the book, telling her how much I identified with the characters who reminded me of my Norwegian grandparents, how much our library would be excited to have her and what could be the terms for a visit. But Uff da! or even Ish da! -- depending on how badly I must have embarrassed myself in my enthusiasm -- I have never heard back. But ja, well, it was a very good book.

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