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A Review of “I Escaped The Donner Party: Pioneers on the Oregon Trail, 1846 “ by Scott Peters and Ellie Crowe
This book that explores a well-known tragedy on the old Oregon Trail. A group of pioneer families (the Donner party) on the way to California badly miscalculated the weather in the Sierra Mountains. They got snowed in, and there was starvation and cannibalism. The Donner group sent out small parties to contact civilization and bring back a rescue party. In fact rescue parties did finally find them.
That’s the story in a nutshell, and this little book tells it reasonably well. Good historical fiction pays great attention to description and detail to provide a believable sense of place. The authors fall a bit short in places:
• In one place an Indian comes riding toward them, firing his shotgun. Well, this is 1846. Muzzle-loaders only, and there ain’t gonna be reloading while riding a horse. It didn’t ring true. I had a “bonk” moment. • The main protagonist is Cecil, nicknamed Zeke. Clearly, Ezekiel the Prophet was the genesis of this name, but I would not expect YA readers to know this. The authors should have made that connection. • In one place the temperature is named as twenty-two below zero. If the Donner folks had garments to enable them to be active in that kind of cold I would have liked to have known more about them. • We are given scenes of trekking on snowshoes through very cold weather. There should have been more frostbite. Frostbite can be very serious, easily kills people from tissue necrosis or gangrene. This would have been a big issue in hiking cross-country to get help. • Sometimes modern language crept in. When the group made a big mistake the narrative says that they “… had blown it.” Sorry, that’s a modern usage. Really, such stuff should be caught in proofreading! • The main character, Zeke, has visions and premonitions. He can actually see the future. Thus the prophet name, but for me this is too much hand-waving and deus ex machina. If you pay too much attention to this trick the book ends up as fantasy rather than historical fiction.
One thing that improved the book was the inclusion of a substantial afterword, giving the true names of people that were in the Donner Party and a glimpse of their subsequent history. That added a good bit of veracity.
On the whole, a fast-paced introduction to the Donner disaster that offers an insight into a past that modern people have a difficult time even imagining. The writers controlled the level of their text to allow younger readers to comprehend the action. This book may not attract seasoned readers of historical fiction, but it’s a pretty good introduction for the YA crowd.
I downloaded this book using my Kindle Unlimited account.
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2020
I really don't know where to begin to describe how much I actually enjoyed reading this book.
The story follows Zeke Farnsworth and his fellow pioneers as they experience the hardships and trials while heading west on the Oregon Trail. When their wagon train takes an ill-advised short cut, they find themselves trapped in a frozen mountain pass and Zeke is tasked to make it to California.
The story is fast-paced, interesting and adventurous, and I loved that I could experience the trauma and tenacity through the eyes of a teenager.
Definitely a book that I would recommend to anyone interested in history. A keeper, for sure!
What a fantastic book!!! The Donner party is a very sensitive part of history that needs to be shared. I love how we see this story play out in a youth's mind. Very well written. I can't wait to read the rest of the series. This book will keep you wanting for more.
Wowza, what a story. First off, I am not from the USA so have read this without any knowledge of the history surrounding it. For me, as someone who likes a good story, I found this a really great book. The writing has a strong but steady pace with plenty of action to keep my interest, while the graphics were outstanding and perfectly suited to the story being told. How does this book relate to actual historical fact? That, I cannot answer, not being aware of the background, however it does make for a really good, action-packed read!
Reviewed in the United States on September 21, 2020
Just hearing the words "Donner Party" leaves chills to most people. This book was a nice tale that saw it from a young boy's perspective, particularly interesting because of the actual fact that the party was made up of so many children and youngsters. I especially appreciated the author including the fascinating facts, quotes and other author notes at the end of the book. Whenever I read or watch something I enjoy, it always leaves me wanting to know more about the subject, so it was perfect!
I enjoyed reading the historical non-fiction story of pioneers traveling on the Oregon Trail with twists and turns along the way. The story teaches us how making bad choices can lead to unfortunate consequences involving the loss of life and struggles to survive. Also, children will learn the importance of having grit and tenacity in reaching your destination as the bumps in the road will make you a stronger human being.
Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2020
I grew up in California and have read accounts of the Donner Party. I especially liked this account as told from one of the teenagers point of view. From the start of their adventure where all seems good to the account of being buried in the snow and freezing is well described. The snow up here is called Sierra Cement for good reason. I also enjoyed the history at the back of the book along with the quotes.
This is the first book I have read in the "I Escaped Series" and now I feel I need to go back and read the rest of the series. The main character Zeke is someone that young boys can look up to and be inspired by the challenges he faces. The fact that this book is based on actual accounts of people who have survived the Oregon Trail makes this book even more enjoyable. Good for middle schoolers or children a bit older. Great read!
This is a very interesting historical book for older children / kids. It's a must have in your library if you're into historical fiction. It also tackles about bravery that anyone can learn from. I'm got immersed and I feel like I'm part of the story while reading it. The author did a great job!