Kirby Larson’s Hattie Big Sky tells the story of sixteen-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks, who, from the time she was five years old, has been shuffled among distant relatives. One day, she receives a letter from an uncle who, as his dying wish, passed his homestead in Montana on to her. In the midst of World War I, Hattie moves to Montana alone to attempt to prove up on the land so that she can own it outright.
I adore stories about pioneers and homesteaders. (I long to be one myself, so I love reading about them.) So at first, I didn’t want to put this book down. Especially knowing that the book was based on the life of the author’s great-grandmother, I wanted to devour every description of homestead life in the early 1900’s.
However, the book tells less of life as a young female homesteader and more of the discrimination against German Americans during The Great War. And while that was interesting, too, it wasn’t what I expected or wanted. Additionally, I kept wondering how, if Hattie was working so hard to build fences and raise wheat and flax and chickens, did she have time to go to so many dances and parades in town. And I wondered if she was trying so hard to make ends meet, was she so frequently able to spend her nickels on pie and coffee at the diner. Although the story was based on true events, a lot of what Larson wrote about didn’t seem very realistic to me.
Still, this young adult novel won the Newbery Medal, so a lot of people must have thought it was pretty good. And it was okay — the characters were well defined and interesting — but Larson didn’t focus the story on what I thought it would be. So to me, it was a disappointment.