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Hattie Big Sky: 09/04/09

Kirby Larson's great-grandmother Hattie Inez Brooks Wright had a homestead in eastern Montana and proved her claim. In researching the history of her great-grandmother, Kirby Larson began to realize she had a novel. To tell a more complete picture of homesteading during the 1910s she decided to create a very different outcome for her Hattie for Hattie Big Sky.

Fictional Hattie is a 16 year old orphan who has been jostled from family member to family member, never really finding a home as her own. When her late uncle's claim is willed to her she sees a chance to finally find a place where she belongs.

The novel takes place from December 19, 1917 to December 12, 1918. This is right during America's participation in WWI. Hattie quickly discovers the anti-German fears and hatred cropping up. By befriending a German American family Hattie puts herself and her home at risk.

Besides the war tension at home and having a good friend fighting over seas, Hattie has to deal with the elements (snow, hail, drought), rationing (flour, sugar) and quickly diminishing funds to homesteading expenses and mandatory war support.

The parallels between Hattie's life and our recent invasion of Iraq are intentional. Kirby outlines her reasons in the "Author's Note" at the back of the book.

I picked this book for two very shallow reasons: I loved the cover art and I liked the title. Hattie, of course, is short for Harriet, and I've been reading many books about Harriets now. I read some bits to my daughter and she enjoyed the pieces I read to her. I think when she is older I will get her a copy for her personal library. What I discovered was a well researched, fascinating, heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking novel about life in rural Montana. It was a book I couldn't put down for the two days I was reading it.

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