Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky9780385735957_p0_v1_s260x420Hattie Big Sky

Kirby Larson, Author

Random House Children’s Books, Fiction, 2008

Awards: Newbery Honor Books

Suitable for Ages: 12-17

Themes: Homesteading, Prairie, Montana, Prejudice, Friendship

Publisher Synopsis: 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.

Why I liked this book:

  • It is based on Kirby Larson’s great-grandmother successful attempt to homestead in Montana in  1918. She heard the story long after her great-grandmother passed and began researching and reading diaries of people in the area.
  • Larson writes a powerful and authentic story about the harsh realities of life and work for any homesteader, let alone 16-year-old Hattie Inez Brooks. The setting is so realistic that readers will feel like they are there with Hattie digging and placing every fence post in the frozen earth to stake out her claim, plowing the fields and sharing in her adventure every step of the way.
  • The narrative is rich and visual. The story is packed with details of Hattie’s care for her livestock (a cow, horse and chicken) planting, harvesting, extreme weather, worry over paying bills and saving enough money to pay off her uncle’s claim, experiencing prejudices and making true friendships.
  • Great characters make a book and Larson has succeeded with Hattie, a brave, intelligent and independent character from the start. Her credibility grows as she learns to draw deep within herself to deal with raw reality of the hardships she faces, including the loss of her claim at the end. Even that doesn’t defeat her because what she may have lost she gained in deep friendships, values and knowing she gave homesteading her very best effort.
  • The plot is filled with suspense, tension and action, which will keep readers quickly turning pages.
  • Hattie is a hero and a great role model for teenage girls.  This books belongs in every middle grade and high school library.
  • Larson wrote a sequel, Hattie Ever After, in 2013. Readers can follow Hattie to see where her dreams lead her and if she finds her place in the world. I will soon review the sequel.

Kirby Larson is the author of Hattie Ever After, Duke, Dash, The Fences Between Us and The Friendship Doll.  Check out Kirby Larson’s website and my review of Dash.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

27 thoughts on “Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

  1. I don’t often read historical fiction, but this book sounds like one that I would enjoy and learn from. And I have many friends who *do* read historical fiction who would love it!


  2. This sounds like an important, historically accurate story filled with the blood, sweat and tears of the homesteaders and all that entailed. I enjoyed your synopsis, Patricia. If I had read the publisher synopsis alone, I might not have realised the value of this book.


    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed my review. Larson really does her research. Her great-grandmother’s successful homesteading experience, certainly inspired her to find out more. I really enjoyed her novel. Have read the sequel to Hattie and will publish it soon.


  3. This is a period and place in history in which i am very interested. Somehow when a book is even loosely based on real events there is added interest for me. Thanks, i am adding it to my TBR list!


    • Yes, I found myself very interested in this period of history. This book totally captivated me. I think you’d love it too.
      Catherine introduced me to Jody Hedlund’s adult books, especially “The Doctor’s Lady,” which goes even more history.


  4. This one hits close to home as my family were German homesteaders at the beginning of the 20th century. They worked so hard to build a life and the women were very strong and determined. Montana is just across the border from Alberta where I´m from originally. Thanks for the great review.


  5. I enjoyed this title when it came out. So well written, it really does make you experience what it must have been like to homestead. Your review reminds me I wouldn’t mind reading it again.


  6. I read an arc of this book before it was published (I worked in a bookstore then) and absolutely loved it. And I learned so much from it! I loved the sequel too and I’ll be sure to come back to read your review of that.


    • I’m glad you loved this series as much I did. I couldn’t put it down and was hooked from the start. Powerful story. When I read the sequel, I Hattie kept reminding me of Anne Shirley in her pursuit of her writing career. Have written the review but won’t run it until Mar. 23. Thanks you for visiting.


    • Erik, you would really enjoy this book about homesteading. Kirby was fortunate to learn about her great-grandmother’s successful homesteading efforts. A lot of research went into this story. It is well worth the read. So much going on historically during this time period. Fascinating time. You really get a sense of what the early settlers dealt. Not sure I could have done something so brave.


  7. Pingback: Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson | Children's Books Heal

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