HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Children of the Covered Wagon: A Story of the Old Oregon Trail
Author: Mary Jane Carr
Illustrator: Bob Kuhn
Publisher: Christian Liberty Press, republished 2007
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Carr, Mary Jane. Children of the Covered Wagon: A Story of the Old Oregon Trail (published in 1934 by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York City, NY). It is 1844, and seven year old orphaned Jerry is out on the prairie. He has left his home in Osage, MO, to travel with a covered wagon train captained by his uncle Jim Stephen. Also along are his Aunt Beth who is his late mother’s sister, his eleven year old cousin Jim, and many others. They are all heading over the Oregon Trail toward the Willamette Valley of Oregon. However, with hostile Indians all around, quicksand in the river fords, sudden storms, the threat of buffalo stampedes, and alkali deserts, will they make it? How many precious things will have to be left behind on the trail? And what happens when young Jim is captured by Blackfoot Indians?
While the story is fictional, the portrayal of the trials and hardships which the pioneers faced moving across the country is historically accurate, and several real individuals are mentioned along the way, such as Marcus Whitman, Jedediah Smith, John McLoughlin, Jim Bridger, and John (“Uncle Jack”) Robinson. There are a couple of common euphemisms (gosh, golly) and a few references to pipe smoking. Children (and adults) will love to read this adventuresome account of pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail during the mid-1800s. It is a great story from a kid’s perspective and makes the wagon train experience come alive. An American classic, the book makes a wonderful complement to a study of the westward expansion period in United States history. Also, it served as the basis for Westward Ho, The Wagons!, a 1956 live-action Disney western film.