American Adventures - Westward Journeys“American Adventures: Westward Journeys” by Judy Young and Devin Scillian, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, Chris Ellison, and Doris Ettlinger
c.2013, Sleeping Bear Press
$6.99 / $9.99 Canada
96 pages


The last time your family moved, it was quite a big project.

All your belongings went into boxes, which were stacked on furniture on a truck and it took two weeks for you to unpack. It was a mess, that’s for sure.

Now imagine putting everything in a wagon about the size of a bathroom and giving away whatever didn’t fit. Imagine walking 1,500 miles to get to your new home, and you have an idea of what happened to the children in “American Adventures: Westward Journeys.”

On the day that Minnow saw the wagon trains, she knew what that meant: strangers were crossing the prairie again. As she went to tell her father, she spotted a girl with red hair and in “Minnow and Rose: The Oregon Trail” by Judy Young, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, she was surprised.

Rose saw the girl with the pitch-black hair by the river, and she was surprised, too. She wanted to meet the girl, though neither one’s father liked that idea. But when tragedy struck, there was no other choice…

Running a fish stall in Baltimore almost never paid the bills, which made Moses’ father very sad – but, in “Pappy’s Handkerchief” by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Chris Ellison, Moses and his father heard the other Negroes talking about opportunity, and they listened very closely.

Someone said that on April 22 of that year (1889), any American could stake a claim in the Oklahoma Territory – and that included Negroes!  Owning a farm was a dream for Moses’ grandfather, who was once a slave. It wouldn’t be easy to get to Oklahoma; in fact, it would be one of the hardest things the family would do.

But they would do it. Moses would make sure.

When Mama died, Cora missed her mother but she was excited to have a new baby sister. She even got to name the baby, but in “A Book for Black-Eyed Susan” by Judy Young, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger, Pa said that Aunt Alma and Uncle Lee were going to raise little Susan.

That made Cora unhappy. She might never see her sister again, so she made a special gift for Susan. It was a gift that Cora would remember forever, too…

Sometimes, it’s fun to imagine what life might’ve been like as a pioneer. “American Adventures: Westward Journeys” helps your child understand the hardships and joys of that time more than a century ago.

In each of three stories, young readers will see – from several vantage points – the bravery it took to travel cross-country before automobiles were invented. They’ll learn that it wasn’t always fun, that danger and death were constant companions. And they’ll see that kids their age made a difference, even in the smallest ways.

What’s nice about a book like this is that the subjects of these stories are the same age as its intended readers. So if your 7-to-9-year-old young Wild West fan is searching for the next good read, then finding “American Adventures: Westward Journeys” should be the next project.