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Carolina’s Courage by Elizabeth Yates

Over the last year, I’ve read most of the Little House on the Prairie books aloud to the girls. I think I started while we were in Alberta last year, because I knew my mom and my mother-in-law both had the books so we could keep reading while traveling. This summer, we finished Little Town on the Prairie and I decided to stop reading because Laura is now fifteen, starting her first job, and getting courted by Almanzo—grown-up topics for my little girls.

Carolina's Courage by Elizabeth YatesWe needed some new books to start reading together, and Carolina’s Courage caught my eye. This was a book that I read as a child and which my mom actually bought with our homeschool funding. When I outgrew it (and other YA novels), she lent it to another homeschooling family, who recently returned it to her. She passed it along to me. While most of the other books in the box can wait until the girls are old enough to read themselves, I pulled this one out to read together.

Set in the late 1850s, Carolina’s Courage is another going West story. Carolina is perhaps seven or eight in the book when her father decides to sell his farm in New Hampshire and head for Nebraska Territory in the hopes of a better life. They must leave many of their possessions behind, but Carolina is happy that she can bring her beloved doll, Lydia-Lou. As their wagon heads west, they learn about being pioneers and meet other families facing similar hardships and challenges.

Then, at the river crossing just days before they plan to file their claim, Carolina faces her biggest challenge yet. Her choice could determine not only her family’s future, but the safety of every other pioneer family waiting at the river with them.

Carolina’s Courage is only six chapters long (albeit slightly long chapters), so I read it in the week we spent at homeschooling camp. Beautiful pen-and-ink drawings accompany the story, helping children picture the wagon and Carolina’s family. Faith is touched upon briefly in the novel, as Carolina’s family says prayers at various times and stops to rest on Sundays. Carolina’s father stresses the importance of sharing and helping others.

This novel is intended for ages 7-9. I do remember enjoying it as a child, though rereading it now, I was a bit surprised that it’s written from an adult perspective (third person omniscience), rather than Carolina’s perspective. The girls begged for more every time I stopped reading, and talked about it quite a bit when we had finished the book, so they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Elizabeth Yates is the award-winning author of more than forty novels for young adults. Several of her novels are among my favourites, including The Journeyman, Hue and Cry, and Mountain Born. Yates was also known for helping people learn to write and wrote a nonfiction book for young writers, Someday You’ll Write (still on my bookshelf and also excellent). She was born in 1905 and died in 2001.

If you also have young readers who enjoy westward-ho stories, check out Carolina’s Courage.

Love reading? I’m hosting TWO book giveaways for my BloggersFete—one for moms, one for kids!

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