Title: Moccasin Trail
Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Major Themes: 19th century, Historical Fiction, Oregon Trail
Synopsis: Jim wants to go home to his family again—but after eight years away, can he—in their eyes an Indian—ever be reconciled to their way of life?
You like Indians, and you like stories about pioneers travelling west? Then Moccasin Trail is perfect for you. I wouldn’t be able to sum up this book in just one word, but two would do: rough, and alone. This book has always kept me and my brothers captivated whenever it’s read to us—or we read it ourselves—and it is a perfect picture of the hardships of early pioneers, and what their relationships with the American Indians were like as well.
Jim Keath ran away from his family eight years ago, and after narrowly escaping death at the hands of a grizzly bear, Crow Indians rescued him and brought him up as one of their own. After living with them six years—and becoming one of the Crow—he became a trapper. Then, he gets an urgent message from his siblings.
“Jim, if you’re still alive, come help us.”
He’s always longed to return home and be with his brothers and sister, but now he knows they need him. When he is greeted with superstition, hostility, and fear. To them, he was an Indian—and to him, they were strangers. Eight years had drawn barriers that seemed impossible to break. Even young Dan’l, with all his admiration of Jim, is held back by the same barriers. Is there ever the possibility that they can be a family again—one that doesn’t argue and fight all the time?
While giving an inside view of the Oregon trail, we also get an amazing adventure wrapped up in a well-written story. This book is one you’ll remember for a long time. I recommend it to all families, and children ages 8 and over will especially benefit from it as a read-aloud. If your child wants to read it, I believe 12 and over would be fine with it.
WARNING: There are a few places parents would want to know about. On page 38, Jim almost kills a man in anger. On page 172–173 he kills an Indian, and again on page 228. Also, throughout the book, there are mentions of omens and other Indian spiritual stuff (witchcraft, in my opinion). There also is a lot of language.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above