HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Wagons West!
Author and Illustrator: Roy Gerrard
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, republished in 2000
ISBN-13: 978-0374382490 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0374382492 (Hardcover)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 4 – 8 years
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Gerrard, Roy. Wagons West! (published in 1996 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Saddle up for excitement on an 1850 wagon trip to the West. In this adventure, the narrator and her parents and neighbors embark on a journey up the Oregon Trail, hoping to find fertile land out West. These hardy pioneers and their leader, Buckskin Dan who rides into town praising the riches of the frontier, survive inclement weather on the plains, rescue a lost Arapaho Indian boy, fight off cattle thieves with the help of the tribe near Fort Laramie, party during a stopover at Fort Laramie, and build a raft to go down the mighty Columbia River, eventually starting new lives in the rich, green Willamette Valley. The ending is heart-warming.
Readers young and old will enjoy the late Roy Gerrard’s intoxicating, rhythmic verse with an ABCB rhyme scheme and distinctive illustrative style with the compressed, spool-shaped bodies and outsized heads in earth-toned watercolors. With its offbeat humor, this is a really good choice to help youngsters understand and appreciate the westward expansion movement in the history of our nation. Unfortunately, since the author’s death, his books are no longer in print and may be difficult to find. We checked this book out of the library when it was fairly new for our older son Mark to have some extra reading to accompany his second-grade homeschool history studies. Gerrard also used the frontier setting in Rosie and the Rustlers (Farrar, 1989).