School Library Journal - Hardscrabble
Hardscrabble Gr 4-6– In the early 1900s, the Martins move to Colorado, where Father plans to earn free land by farming government acreage for five years. Twelve-year-old Belle and her family endure a series of harrowing events: baby Sage survives an encounter with a rattlesnake; Belle’s sibling Becky dies, as does Mama; a blizzard threatens the entire family; and an invasion of grasshoppers must be fought off. Later lighter moments, such as Belle playing matchmaker for her widowed father, lessen the tension. The author’s careful attention to historical detail can be found in her vivid description of the Martins’s “soddy” home. A cast of believable characters with distinct personalities brings this slice of U.S. history to life; particular attention is given to how the difficulties of frontier life impact the children. The Martins neighbor Lizzie, an independent woman who homesteads alone and offers the Martins valuable support, is a strong and memorable character. VERDICT Dallas’s latest work of historical fiction (Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky; The Quilt Walk) conveys the importance of family and the value of neighbors helping one another. A fine selection where fiction about white U.S. frontier life is in demand.