Candy Moulton: Reading the West 7-30-12
When I saw the title to this young adult book, “Journey to Plum Creek,” I thought perhaps it was about the events at Plum Creek, Neb., in 1864, but I quickly found that fourth grade teacher Melodie Cuate has not left her Texas roots for stories set farther north. Instead, she again turns to events in Texas history for her sixth book in the “Journey to” series.
Already Cuate has won Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for her titles “Journey to San Jacinto” and “Journey to Gonzales.” In “Journey to Plum Creek,” she takes youngsters back into history once again as Hannah, Nick and Jackie, released from school early on a Friday afternoon, head to a high point in Austin, Texas, with Jackie’s grandfather.
The three youngsters leave Grandpa behind as they set off to explore a cave Nick had seen on a Cub Scout trip. Inside the confines of the small cave, they discover a version of the trunk their teacher Mr. Barrington has shown them. They know from past experiences this trunk has the power to send them back in time.
Sure enough, after receiving some goods from the man “guarding” the trunk, they find themselves swept into an 1840 raid on Victoria, Texas, by Comanche warriors. The two girls are taken captive. Hannah must struggle with the women and girls of the village, who treat her as they would any captive of the day, by hitting her, forcing her to do work, and generally making her life miserable.
Jackie, meantime, is adopted into the tribe by Falling Rain and Broken Feather, to replace their own daughter. She is treated kindly, dressed in Comanche clothing (with the exception of her green boots, and the fact that she had polish for her fingernails and also carries her cell phone).
Young Nick is not with the girls when he emerges into a new time, and instead meets Bigfoot Wallace and joins a band of Texas Rangers led by Jack Hays, who are intent on recovering the captives and taking revenge on the Comanches who raided Victoria.
As the story unfolds, a reader (young or old), will get a heaping portion of Texas history, meeting the real characters who were involved in the actual battle at Plum Creek in 1840.
This fast-paced story keeps you turning the pages and is way to learn more about the early struggles in Texas, while being fully entertained. The “magic” of Mr. Barrington’s trunk extends beyond the ability for it to allow these young students: Hannah, Nick and Jackie, to travel back to an earlier time, since Hannah also has a ring that she can twist in such a way that the modern-day time travelers can speak and understand languages they should not know — in this case Comanche.
This is another great book for a young adult reader who also likes history. ❖