Prairie Meeting was written by Linda Baxter; inside illustration was by Jenny Heath and the book was published by Perfection Learning, 1998.

As this historical novel opens, fifteen-year-old Paul Muller is waiting on the docks and saying good-bye to his mother, father and youngest sister. He is about to board a ship for America. The time is the late 19th century. Paul’s uncle who has a farm in Nebraska has offered to sponsor Paul and has promised him a job working on his farm. Paul is eager to immigrate, but leaving the rest of his family behind is daunting.

Baxter uses a lot of good detail about late 19th century travel and rural life  in her telling of Paul’s story.Young readers will feel as if they are with Paul, experiencing the fear and excitement of traveling across the Atlantic Ocean. I think they will be turning the pages wanting to know if immigration authorities will pass Paul through Ellis Island or if they will retain him as they did some. Young readers will fear for Paul as he encounters a thief on the train west. The plot twists dramatically when Paul finally reaches the small town where his uncle has been living only to learn that his uncle has moved away and no one knows where. Readers will keep reading to know what happens next.

The book is not overtly Christian, but God is behind the scenes in the telling of this story. Paul encounters difficulties but people help him and Paul is an upright, likable young man–kind, hard-working, respectful and brave.

The author has based this book on her grandfather’s story of immigrating to the United States. The novel is part of a series. Two other books, The Rattlesnake Necklace and Rocky Mountain Summer, tell about her grandmother, Fern, before she meets Paul.

Prairie Meeting is short–72 pages–but I think it will be quite satisfying for fourth and fifth graders. They will enjoy the author’s storytelling abilities and they will enjoy learning about what it was like to immigrate to America and to live on the Nebraska prairie in the 19th century. The author is a former elementary school teacher and she has crafted her book to meet the needs and interests of this age group. Home schooling parents may want to know that a teacher’s guide is available for this book and there are also teacher guides available for the other books in the series.

Nancy

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