Monday, November 26, 2007

Hattie Big Sky - Mary's Thoughts

For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim.

Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove on her quest to discover the true meaning of home.

In her bio, Kirby Larson said that writing made her happy, made her crazy and was a compulsion. "I tried to quit once. That lasted for six months." I'm sure life, as we know it, would've gone on its merry way without Hattie Big Sky, but how much we would've missed!

I was just a few pages into the book when I read a line that made me smile. Left me without a doubt that this was a special this book, and Ms. Larson's writing was special, too. After a very rough start under the big sky of Vida, Montana, Hattie Inez Brooks sat down to the first meal in her new home. A meal provided by her new neighbor, Perilee Mueller. "The stew tasted of sage and carrots and hope." That line made me pause; made me think. If only we could all grab hope from the simple pleasures and kind gestures of life.

The book is based on Kirby Larson's great-grandmother's attempt to make a go of the homestead her Uncle left her in his will. From Hattie's struggles with the bitter winter, the stifling, bug-infested summers, and the anti-German sentiment that threatened her best friend, Perilee Mueller and her husband, Karl, we are there with every beautifully-written word.

If Hattie had known in advance the hardship of that year in Montana, would she have abandoned her dream? I choose to believe she would've stuck it out. The Hattie I came to know would never have given up without a fight.

Hattie Big Sky comes highly recommended by this reader for all age groups.

Kirby Larson's Hattie Big Sky, a 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Junior Library Guild Selection, and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.


Mary Cunningham Books


Kirby Larson said...

I am honored that you are all talking about Hattie Big Sky. In this season of thankfulness, I am thankful for the supportive children's book creator community and for all the people who care so much about connecting kids with books.

I just got back from a trip to Missouri and Alabama and while at Franklin Elementary in Liberty, MO, a third grader (!) asked me how I considered story structure as I wrote my books. Story structure! I was amazed at the sophistication of the question.

So now I am headed back to my computer to think about the story structure of the work in progress.

Sure hope there is one!

Mary Cunningham said...

What a wonderful question from a third grader! I think that one would've caught me off guard.

It's great that you have made such a connection with kids. I know my friend's granddaughter, Abbie, is a real fan of Hattie Big Sky. And, why not? The story has determination, love, unequaled friendship, hardship, along with teaching the ugliness of prejudice.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope we'll hear from you during the week.

Church Lady said...

I loved this book! It was a great way of learning about homesteaders and their hardships.

I want to visit Montana one day and learn more about the Blackfoot Indians. It's a state rich with history.

Mayra Calvani said...

This looks like a wonderful book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it, Mary. I'll check it out on Amazon.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to ask if the author has a website, and if there are photos on her site from her grandmother's time on the homestead.



Mary Cunningham said...

Kirby Larson's website is on the previous blog. You can check it out, Diane.

Thanks for stopping by. Are you related to word?

I can see a "Blackfoot" Blog in your future, Church!

Thanks for stopping by, Mayra! The books is amazing! Check it out.

Jeff Sherratt said...

HATTIE BLUE SKY is listed on Amazon as a book for young adults. Some say I'm not so young any more, but it doesn't matter. Because, after reading the blurbs and reviews of Kirby Larson's book it is definitely going to be on my wish list of gifts, the list that I'm mailing this December to Santa Claus.

Jeff Sherratt

Mary Cunningham said...

I know this "Old Pioneer" loved the book, Jeff.

I'm still a sucker for "Little House on the Prairie." This is right up there in the descriptions of homesteading hardships.

Thanks for stopping by!

Word said...

Oh gosh, this was a good one. Seriously, as a someday wanna be published children's author, I'm constantly grabbing mid grades, ya's, and pb's from my library. I consider them homework as I read.

For the most part, I enjoy them, but gosh once in a while, I just want something with a little more meat...know what I mean?

Hattie Big Sky has meat! It is a delicious read.

I really feel Hattie Big Sky crosses the genre line and not just into adult, but I think a younger than your typical ya reader would love the story too.

It's just a darn fine story.

Kirby - has anyone asked about movie rights yet? I could see that happening very easily.

Mary Cunningham said...

Great question, word! Can't you just see it as a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie?

Okay...who would play Hattie?

Word said...


I don't recall the name of the character in the book - help me out - but she's the woman who I pictured with a bit of chew tucked between the cheek and gums.

I would volunteer to play her. She was fun!

Her or the chess playing, bike riding neighbor. I liked him too!

Mary Cunningham said...

I'm drawing a blank, word. The bike-riding neighbor is Rooster Jim. Ya really wanna play him, huh? Okey-dokey. Maybe that can be arranged.

Church Lady said...

Please don't make Word be Rooster Jim. :-OO

I thought I'd gussy up for visiting ya'll.