A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Newbery Honor novel Hattie Big Sky is about a teenage orphan who moves to Montana after inheriting her uncle's homestead claim. The book gives readers a good sense of what life was like during World War I. In particular, Hattie watches neighbors of German descent face discrimination, including violence, though nothing worse than a barn-burning and a kick takes place here. Hattie is good-hearted and hardworking, and soon learns to stand up for what she believes in and the people she cares about, even when she puts herself in danger. Readers who enjoy this book may want to read the sequel, Hattie Ever After, published in 2013.
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What's the story?
Set during World War I, HATTIE BIG SKY is about a teenager named Hattie, who has been passed from relative to relative since being orphaned as a small child. When she receives word that an uncle has left her a homesteading claim in Montana, she heads West alone. There she finds her new home is a shack, a Montana winter is setting in, and she has less than a year to fence the land, plant crops, and pay the fees, or else lose the claim. Hattie is warmly welcomed by her immediate neighbors, with whom she becomes fast friends. But she has a lot to battle: brutal weather, her own inexperience and loneliness, and bigoted locals who seek to punish those of German descent, their friends, and anyone they think is insufficiently patriotic.
Is it any good?
Readers will root for Hattie as she works until her hands blister -- she even passes out at one point -- and also exercises her heart to take care of those she loves. There are great details about life just after the turn of the 20th century, and readers will find out about quilting patterns, planting and harvesting, war rationing -- and even discover a couple of recipes. The author doesn't shy away from describing the hardships of homesteading life where so much depends on weather, neighbors, and the price of wheat -- or when a flu outbreak can kill people you love. But these details, like the anti-German harassment, are told at a level that young readers be able to understand and handle. Readers may surprised at the unpredictable ending, but that will only lead them excitedly to the sequel, Hattie Ever After, where Hattie's adventure continues.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how life has changed between 1918 and now. How does Hattie's life compare with your own? What is compelling about reading historical fiction like this book?
Parents may want to delve more deeply into the bigotry expressed by some of the characters in Hattie Big Sky. Why do they act this way? Are the characters' feelings reasonable given that the country is at war? Can you draw any parallels to to how people behave today?
What other books have you read with strong female main characters?
- Author: Kirby Larson
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, High School, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: September 26, 2006
- Number of pages: 289
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: June 20, 2019
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