HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Thundering Prairie
Author: Mary A. Hancock
Illustrator: H. Tom Hall
Publisher: Macrae Smith Co., 1969
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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Hancock, Mary A. The Thundering Prairie (published in 1969 by Macrae Smith Company, Philadelphia, PA). It is 1893, and thirteen year old Benjy Bryan, who was born in North Carolina, lives in Kentucky with his parents, older brother Joel, seventeen, and older sister Sue, sixteen. Jon Bryan had moved the family to take a coal mining job so that he could make enough money to buy his own homestead in Oklahoma during the Cherokee Strip Land Run on September 16, 1893. Unfortunately, Mr. Bryan is seriously injured in a mine disaster just before time to leave for, and it’s not certain if he’ll even live. However, he urges the rest of his family to go on to Oklahoma and establish a claim. So, with their horse Big Mike pulling the wagon and Benjy’s little donkey Dab pulling the cart, the four of them head west.
Along the way, the Bryans join forces with the Lonzo Tabor family from Tabor’s Cove, TN—all twelve of them. Philo Tabor becomes Benjy’s best friend. There are only about 40,000 claims available but around 100,000 people vying for them. With horse thieves, prairie fires, and coiled rattlesnakes along the way, will Benjy’s and Philo’s families even make it to Oklahoma? If they do, can they find a suitable claim? And what happens to Papa in the faraway hospital? Author Mary A. Hancock’s best known book is probably Menace on the Mountain, which was made into a 1970 telefilm produced by Walt Disney Productions. The Thundering Prairie, in which the euphemistic term “dratted” is used once, is an exciting historical fiction tale of adventure that was chosen as a Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club selection.