This Newbery Honor winner is an incredibly absorbing read. Given the cool and damp weather, it was a perfect pick for a day spent reading. Hattie, shuttled from relative to relative for her entire young life, is notified via mail that her Uncle Chester has left her acreage in Montana. She must stake her claim to the land and also make improvements to it in order to keep the land. Thus begins an adventure for Hattie who must build fences, plant seed, and learn how to be a homesteader. Hattie faces each new obstacle with a healthy blend of anger and acceptance. She writes of her frustrations and joys to her uncle and to Charlie, a childhood friend serving overseas in WW I. Neighbors prove to be Hattie's saving grace. Perilee and her husband Karl and their children show the tenderfoot how to survive in the dead of winter. By spring Hattie is returning the favors of others.
Life is not easy for Hattie and the story takes several twists and turns along with Hattie's fate. Set against the background of the war and the fear here at home for those who are different, especially those of German descent, there are some chilling parallels for the careful reader. The language of the book is lyrical. Hattie loves books and reading and, therefore, her descriptions are vivid though her language remains accessible, reflecting her simple roots. She becomes a flesh and blood person to me as the novel progressed from start to finish. Her emotions are mixed; she faces trouble with stubbornness; she is a fierce friend though hesitant to confront the men who bully others to be "patriotic." This book should appeal to readers who whet their tastebuds for settles with books such as PRAIRIE SONG and SARAH PLAIN AND TALL and other stories of brave women who carved out a life in the middle of harsh environs.