Monday, September 6, 2010

West to the Sun

This week our review focuses on childrens' fiction with a book about the pioneer experience on the Oregon Trail.

Book Title: West to the Sun
Author: Tom G. Good
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5162-3
Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc. 2010
Link to purchase:
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui for WITS

In West to the Sun, author Tom G. Good weaves a story of the Oregon Trail, and the pioneer experience of Jeremiah Symons, an 11-year-old boy and his family. Good skillfully narrates the world and history surrounding the characters in a way that captures the readers imagination and carries the journey into visions and vistas outside of the modern experience. In his writing, the author successfully relates the hazards and dangers faced by our pioneer forefathers, exploring concerns, customs, needs, and desires that lay buried in our nation’s past and yet which have so deeply influenced the modern psyche. Good unearths and presents with wonder, surprise and no little amount of awe a fictional and yet historically accurate telling of the journey west for the enrichment of future generations.

Having myself experienced, at the age of nine, being uprooted from my home in modern day America and moved to the wilderness of Northern Canada, I could relate to the daily urgencies, the depiction of life hardships and ever present dangers related by the author. The story teller does not however, focus on the burning resentments, deep fears and the kinds of spiritual challenges an experience like this engenders in a child or the family dynamic. The main characters remain constant and unchallenged in their love for each other, their faith and in their sense of self. The voice of the narrative is more the voice of a wise father than a youth and so on occasion comes across as being a little too good, but the writing is skillful and the history sound. The real story in West to the Sun is that of the Oregon Trail itself, with the characters of Jeremiah and his family being a lens to look through and means of delivery.

This book is an excellent teaching tool for parents and teachers wanting to share with children the history and experiences lived by the courageous men and women of frontier America. With excellent written delivery of the preparation for the journey itself, accurate skillful portrayal of the social interactions between travelers and wagon train life, the difficulties faced and chance encounters along the way, this book offers valuable perspective and insight. Few children today have a comparative experience through which they can empathize or intuit understanding for the hardships experienced, wonders beheld and the demands such a journey would make on early pioneers. Thankfully, we have Tom G. Good’s skillful pen and talented imagination to breathe life into the telling.

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