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KEY: jP = Picture Books; jZ = 1st and 2nd Grade Readers; jE = 3rd and 4th Grade Readers; J = 5th Grade and Up

1850's

updated July 2009


Picture Books

Connor, Leslie MISS BRIDIE CHOSE A SHOVEL
Miss Bridie immigrates to America in 1856 and chooses to bring a shovel, which proves to be a useful tool throughout her life. Elegant woodcuts bring a richness to the spare story of a life full of blessings, but not without challenges.
2004 unpaged

Howard, Ginger WILLIAM'S HOUSE
Arriving in New England in 1637, William is determined to recreate his home in England but realizes that climate requires modifications to it.
2001 unpaged

Kay, Verla GOLD FEVER
In this brief rhyming story set during the gold rush, Jasper leaves his family and farm to pursue his dream of finding gold.
1999 unpaged

McCully, Emily Arnold POPCORN AT THE PALACE
In the mid-1800's Maisie Ferris and her father travel from Galesburg, Illinois to England to introduce the American phenomenon of popcorn.
1997 unpaged

O'Neill, Alexis LOUD EMILY
1850's. A little girl with a big voice who lives in a nineteenth-century whaling town finds a way to be useful and happy aboard a sailing ship.
1998 34 p.


1st - 2nd Grade

Coerr, Eleanor CHANGíS PAPER PONY
In San Francisco during the 1850's gold rush, Chang, the son of Chinese immigrants, wants a pony but cannot afford one until his friend, Big Pete, finds a solution.
1988 63 p.

Coerr, Eleanor THE JOSEPHINA STORY QUILT
While traveling west with her family in 1850, a young girl makes a patchwork quilt chronicling the experiences of the journey and reserves two special patches for her pet hen Josefina.
1986 64 p.


3rd - 4th Grade

Altman, Linda THE LEGEND OF FREEDOM HILL
During the California Gold Rush, Rosabel, an African American, and Sophie, a Jew, team up and search for gold to buy Rosabel's mother her freedom from a slave catcher. 1850's.
2000 unpaged

Bader, Bonnie GOLDEN QUEST
STORIES OF THE STATES series
1850's. As they mingle with the gold miners in their parents' dining hall, eleven-year-old David and his younger sister are caught up in the debate about California statehood and slavery.
1993 51 p.

Berleth, Richard
MARY PATTENíS VOYAGE

A sailor recalls how the 18-year-old wife of Captain Joshua Patten took charge of the clipper ship Neptunes Car during a race from New York to San Francisco in 1856.
1994 36 p.

Hopkinson, Deborah
BIRDIEíS LIGHTHOUSE

The diary of a 10-year-old girl who moves with her family in 1855 from a town on the Maine coast to rugged Turtle Island where her father is to be the lighthouse keeper.
1997 unpaged

Moss, Marissa RACHELíS JOURNAL
The Story of a Pioneer Girl

In her journal, Rachel chronicles her familyís adventures traveling by covered wagon on the Oregon Trail in 1850.
1998 unpaged

Partridge, Elizabeth ORANGES ON GOLDEN MOUNTAIN
When hard times fall on his family, Jo Lee is sent from China to San Francisco, where he helps his uncle fish and dreams of being reunited with his mother and sister. post 1850's.
2001 unpaged

Rappaport, Doreen FREEDOM RIVER
Describes an incident in the life of John Parker, an ex-slave who became a successful businessman in Ripley, Ohio, and who repeatedly risked his life to help other slaves escape to freedom. 1850+.
2000 unpaged

Roop, Peter KEEP THE LIGHTS BURNING, ABBIE
In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper's return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself.
1985 unpaged

Shaw, Janet KIRSTEN SNOWBOUND!
American Girls Short Stories
In 1856, Kirsten and her cousins look after the farm while the adults go to town for supplies and everything is fine - until a blizzard surprises them.
2001 29 p.

Shaw, Janet KRISTEN ON THE TRAIL
American Girls Short Stories
Nine-year-old Kirsten keeps her friendhsip with a Sioux Indian girl a secret until Kirsten's little brother becomes lost in the woods. Includes a section on Sioux Indians and a project related to the story.
1999 29 p.

St.George, Judith BY GEORGE, BLOOMERS!
Hannah wants to wear bloomers instead of skirts, but her mother disapproves of the unladylike garments until Hannah's makeshift bloomers avert a disaster.
1976 47 p.

Shaw, Janet KIRSTEN'S PROMISE
Ten-year-old Kirsten regrets the promise she made to a ragged boy she discovers alone near a wrecked covered wagon not far from her Minnesota home.
2003 38 p.

Wyeth, Sharon FREEDOM'S WINGS
Corey's Diary: Kentucky to Ohio, 1857. My America
A Dear America book.
A 9-year-old slave keeps a diary of his journey to freedom along the Underground Railroad in 1857.
2001 92 p.

Yates, Elizabeth CAROLINAíS COURAGE
1850's New Hampshire/trip west via covered wagon Carolina, Mark and their parents join the trail west. Fortunately, there is room to bring Carolina's beloved doll, who plays and important part in dealing with the Indians they encounter.
1954 96 p.


5th Grade and Up

Avi THE BARN
In an effort to fulfill their dying father's last request, 9-year-old Ben and his brother and sister construct a barn on their land in the Oregon territory in 1855.
1994 106 p.

DeFelice, Cynthia THE APPRENTICESHIP OF LUCAS WHITAKER
1850's Connecticut. After Lucas' mother dies of consumption (tuberculosis) he apprentices himself to a doctor who is very traditional.
1996 151 p.

Erdrich, Louise THE GAME OF SILENCE
Sequel to: The birchbark house. For sequel see: The porcupine year.
Nine-year-old Omakayas, of the Ojibwa tribe, moves west with her family in 1849. Her name is Omakayas, or Little Frog, because her first step was a hop, and she lives on an island in Lake Superior.It is 1850, and the lives of the Ojibwe have returned to a familiar rhythm: they build their birchbark houses in the summer, go to the ricing camps in the fall to harvest and feast, and move to their cozy cedar log cabins near the town of LaPointe before the first snows. The satisfying routines of Omakayas's days are interrupted by a surprise visit from a group of desperate and mysterious people. From them, she learns that all their lives may drastically change. The chimookomanag, or white people, want Omakayas and her people to leave their island in Lake Superior and move farther west. Omakayas realizes that something so valuable, so important that she never knew she had it in the first place, is in danger: Her home. Her way of life.
2005 256 pages

Erdrich, Louise THE PORCUPINE YEAR
Sequel to: The Game of Silence.
In 1852, forced by the United States government to leave their beloved Island of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker, fourteen-year-old Omokayas and her Ojibwe family travel in search of a new home.
2008 193 pages

Henty, G. A A TALE OF THE WESTERN PLAINS or REDSKIN AND COWBOY
1851. A young boy leaves England for adventure in the West--becoming a lumberjack, hunter, cowboy, Indian fighter, and gold miner and finds out the truth about his "uncle" in England.
1997 425 p.

Hermes, Patricia CALLING ME HOME
12-year old Abbie struggles to accept her fatherís desire to make a new home for his family on the Nebraska prairies of the late 1850ís.
1998 138 p.

Holm, Jennifer BOSTON JANE
WILDERNESS DAYS

Far from her native Philadelphia, Miss Jane Peck continues to prove that she's more than an etiquette-schooled graduate of Miss Hepplewhite's Young Ladies Academy as she braves the untamed wilderness of Washington Territory in the mid 1850s.
2002 239 p.

Holm, Jennifer BOSTON JANE
THE CLAIM

sequel to:Boston Jane: wilderness days
The arrival of her spiteful nemisis Sally Biddle from Philadelphia and the return of her corrupt ex-fiance Richard Baldt spell trouble for 17-year-old Miss Jane Peck, who has survived on her own in Shoalwater Bay, a community of white settlers and Chinook Indians in the 1850's Washington Territory.
2004 226 p.

Karr, Kathleen EXILED
MEMOIRS OF A CAMEL

A first-person narrative from a camel's viewpoint about being sent from Egypt to serve in the United States Camel Corps, and life on the Mojave Desert before and during the Civil War. Beins in 1856.
2004 240 p.

McGill, Alice MILES' SONG
In 1851 in South Carolina, Miles, a 12-year-old slave, is sent to a "breaking ground" to have his spirit broken but endures the experience by secretly taking reading lessons from another slave.
2000 213 p.

Murrow, Liza WEST AGAINST THE WIND
1850 Independence, Missouri to the Pacific. 14-year-old Abby seeks both her father and the secret of a handsome but mysterious boy during an arduous journey by wagon train from the middle of the country to the Pacific coast in 1850.
1987 232 p.

Pennington, Kate BRIEF CANDLE
Winter is harsh for young Emily Bronte, her sisters Charlotte and Anne, and their brother Branwell. Cooped up in the bleak parsonage, the only break from dull routine comes when they write adventures for the heroes of their secret worlds of Gondal and Angria or when freedom-loving Emily is able to escape onto the moor. Then one day, while out walking with her dog, Emily stumbles across the mysterious outcast, Heslington, whose story of lost love leaves her spellbound. There and then, Emily resolves to help him out of his wretched state whatever the danger. Kate Pennington is the pseudonym of a best-selling author, whose books have sold in the millions.
2005 262 p.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth AMY MAKES A FRIEND
Portraits of Little Women
Desperate for art lessons, Amy hopes to manipulate her friendship with two other girls to get what she wants. Massachusetts 1850ís.
1998 90 p.

Putnam, Alice WESTERLING
Traveling with his family in a wagon train from Missouri to Oregon in 1850, 11-year-old Jason finds a stray dog during the dangerous journey.
1990 90 p.

Rinaldi, Ann MINE EYES HAVE SEEN
In the summer of 1859, 15-year-old Annie travels to the Maryland farm where her father, John Brown, is secretly assembling his provisional army prior to their raid on the United States arsenal at nearby Harpers Ferry.
1998 273 p.

Ruby, Lois SOON TO BE FREE
Sacagawea's Story
13-year-old Dana investigates a mystery involving the old Kansas house that her parents have turned into a bed and breakfast business; in a parallel story, a Quaker boy living in the house in 1857 sets out to help some fugitive slaves to freedom.
2000 302 p.

Van Leeuwen, Jean BOUND FOR OREGON
A fictionalized account of the journey made by 9-year-old Mary Ellen Todd and her family from their home in Arkansas westward over the Oregon Trail in 1852.
1994 164 p.

Wilkins, Celia LITTLE CITY BY THE LAKE
The Caroline Yearsseries
15-year-old Caroline Quiner, who will become the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, moves to Milwaukee in 1855 to experience city life and attend school.
2003 309 p.

Wisler, G. Clifton JERICHOíS JOURNEY
As his family makes the long and difficult journey from Tennessee to their new home in Texas in 1852, 12-year-old Jericho Wetherby, teased by his sister and brothers about his size, learns there are many ways to grow.
1993 135 p.

Woodruff, Elvira DEAR LEVI: letters from the Overland Trail
12-year-old Austin Ives writes letters to his younger brother describing his 3,000 mile journey from their home in Pennsylvania to Oregon in 1851.
1994 119 p.