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Home | LS5603 Children's and YA Literature | LS6643 Nonfiction for Children and YA
Homesteading: Settling America's Heartland

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. 1998. Homesteading: Settling America's heartland.  Photographs by William Muñoz. New York: Walker and Company. ISBN: 0802786650.

Using clear and simple language, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent makes the experience of being an American homesteader come alive for our earliest readers. Using a combination of Patent's words and Muñoz's pictures, students will be able to understand some of what it was like to try to establish a home on the American prairie during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Patent gives a balanced look at this way of life by conveying the excitement of the homesteading opportunity while also pointing out the dangers and hardships faced by pioneers. This author/illustrator team also successfully make real world connections through pictures and stories that tell how the way of life of the homesteaders still influences our world today, such as showing cellars that were used for storing food and protection from tornadoes. The accompanying picture shows a cellar along with an explanation that prairie families still use these shelters for protection from violent weather. (Patent, p.16) For readers new to this subject matter, the author gives a short yet thorough explanation of homesteading at the beginning of the book, and there is also an afterword which tells about the duration of the Homesteading Act and when it was ended.

Muñoz's pictures extend the text by showing examples of prairie life that still exist today, such as houses made out of sod and a farmer tilling his land using animals. The pictures are colorful and well layed out. Historical pictures from the times are also included.

Although this short photo-essay does not have numbered chapters or a table of contents, it is divided into sections which are marked by headings. This organizes the book into subtopics such as an explanation of the Homestead Act ("Filling the Empty Land," p.7) and several sections on the nuts and bolts of surviving on the prairie ("Everyday Living," p.19). Although some pages are made up entirely of a large photograph by Muñoz, most have text with corresponding pictures. The pictures differ in size, but most are rectangular and no bigger than 4"X6". Captions in italics give further details about the subject of the pictures and homesteading. There is also a simple map on page 5 that aids in Patent's explanation of the Homestead Act. The last page of the book offers a helpful index. No further access features are included.

In her review, Renner comments, "Whether used as a supplement to classroom texts or by students reading and researching on their own, this title deftly depicts a way of life less than a century removed from many of our families." This book could indeed serve many purposes within a classroom or library, and would be a valuable addition.

Renner, Coop. 1998. Preschool to grade 4: Nonfiction. School Library Journal 44(10). In EBSCOHost (database online). Available from  Accessed 21 April 2005.

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