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Hattie Big Sky

Teen girl homesteads alone in Newbery Honor book.
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What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about homesteaders during the early 1900s, and about what life was like during World War I. Kids may be surprised by the anti-German sentiment, and motivated parents and teachers may want to use these details from the book to talk about prejudice or even bullying.

Positive messages

There is a message here about kindness and generosity. The main character learns to stand up for what she believes in and the people she cares about, even when she puts herself in danger.

Positive role models

Hattie has had a hard life, and she continues to struggle in Montana. But she remains committed to making it as a homesteader, even when the odds are against her.


A group of bullies set fire to a German's man barn, and later kick and intimidate another man, saying he hasn't proved his loyalty. Anti-German kids throw rocks at a brother and sister walking home from school. When a terrible flu comes to the area, a child dies along with other local people.



Hattie has a crush on a childhood friend, who is now at war. A local rancher asks her out. A woman gives birth at home.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Chewing tobacco, cigarettes, pipes, wine, and whiskey all mentioned.

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.

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.


Families can talk 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?

Book details

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

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Teen, 14 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... October 17, 2009

A trip to reality

It was a really good book my teacher let me read it and i am 13 and it didnt affect me any its not like your kids have never seen a cigarret before the book doesn't describe it to the t it just says thing like a man sitting there chewing tabacco it's not a bad book because its real not like all the other books where they try to sugar coat it your kids need a bit of reality so let them read the book and lay off
What other families should know
Educational value
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

A must read book that a cried all through!!

Hattie Big sky was a GREAT book that we read at school. It taught us many useful things. Perilee was probably the plot of the story. I love this book even when i cried!