Reviews for Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman And a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail


Booklist Reviews 2006 December #1
This offering from the Cheryl Harness Histories series for middle-graders, which includes The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish (2006), introduces a nineteenth-century pioneer and missionary. Born in 1808, Narcissa had a strict religious upbringing that made her dream of bringing Christianity to those who lived in far-off places. Her 1836 marriage to Marcus Whitman helped her toward her goal. The couple journeyed along the Oregon Trail to the Waiilatpu Mission, where they ministered to the Cayuse. Unfortunately, their religious zeal did not include much understanding of local culture, and the Whitmans lost their lives in a massacre. Harness' chatty, conversational style makes the pair accessible to modern readers, and frequent quotes from Narcissa's diaries and letters and a time line help to frame the story in light of world and national events. Harness' black-line illustrations, which include captioned maps, double-page-spread insets, and period-style drawings, help to break up the text for younger readers. The lack of color is unfortunate, but this is, nonetheless, a lively account that will be a good addition to history units. ((Reviewed December 1, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
Thorough, informative, and chatty, these biographies bring readers the background of the events covered, along with a sense of immediacy as we're thrust into the perils of the Oregon Trail or into the Plymouth Colony wilderness. Extensive timelines on each page are useful, although slightly distracting. Illustrations are comprehensive, despite some details being muddy. [cf2]Whitman[cf1] has a chronology. Reading list. Bib., ind. [Review covers these titles: [cf2]The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish and the Amazing-But-True Survival Story of the Plymouth Colony[cf1] and [cf2]The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail[cf1].] Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 January

Gr 5-8 Harness combines a breezy tone with exhaustively researched texts to produce not only exemplary life stories, but also snapshots of the periods. As the author makes amply clear, Standish was a hotheaded but effective secretary of defense for the struggling Plymouth Colony. His willingness to make a show of force and to invest both time and effort (his own and others') into constructing fortresses probably saved the fledgling colony from untimely destruction. The steps Whitman took to become a missionary, her historic journey to Oregon country, her years at the Waiilatpu Mission, and her tragic death at age 39 are all covered. The narrative is much enhanced by the frequent use of excerpts from her letters home. In each book, a running time line lists significant events taking place in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The texts incorporate information on the state of technology and how that impacted the journeys each individual made, the force and impact of religious beliefs and worldviews, and significant societal beliefs and mores. Black-and-white line illustrations extend the texts beautifully, as do the maps. The bibliographies and indexes are excellent. While readers may not pick these titles up on their own, Harness's style (though a bit arch in tone at times) will hold their interest. Much preferable to most standard series titles, such as Louis Sabin's Narcissa Whitman: Brave Pioneer (Troll, 1997), these books have a place in most school collections. Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA

[Page 149]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2007 June
Offering a refreshing counterpoint to dry, stodgy histories are two works from a planned series of eight. Outlining the journeys of two early adventurers, Narcissa Whitman and Myles Standish, Harness offers middle grade readers a distinctive view of historical events. The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman chronicles the life of a young lady who had dreams of bringing religion to nonbelievers in far-off places. Her dreams came true when she married Marcus Whitman and they both headed west along the legendary Oregon Trail. Narcissa was the first white woman to make this perilous journey, and her story is one of dedication and courage. Excerpts from Narcissa's journals add flavor to her story, which ends quite tragically. The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish tells the familiar history of the pilgrims who came to America fleeing their religious persecutions in England. Focused on Myles Standish, the colonies' military advisor, the text covers the immigrants' travels and first hard years until the time of Myles's death in 1656. Focusing on one person and then placing that person in his or her historical context makes these works a wonderfully unique combination of biography and history. The extensive, illustrated time line that runs along the bottom of each page, while not always synchronized with the text, also adds interesting historical context. The works are well researched, and the presentation of controversial and overtly political topics is well balanced. The text is lively and interesting, with only occasional flaws such as the tendency to inconsistently define difficult words and frequent references to things that will be discussed later on. Drawings and maps stylized to represent old woodcut pictures set off the text, but they are often so small, or as in the case of the maps especially, so overcrowded that they are of little use. A good bibliography and index complete these volumes that will find wide use in both public and school library collections.-Rachel Wadham PLB ISBN 978-0-7922-5921-3. Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.

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