cover image Roughing It on the Oregon Trail

Roughing It on the Oregon Trail

Diane Stanley. HarperCollins, $15.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027065-0

Stanley (Peter the Great) launches a new historical picture book series about the Time Traveling Twins--red-haired brother and sister Lenny and Liz. Left with Grandma while their parents vacation in Paris, the twins soon strike out on an adventure of their own when Grandma whips out her magic hat and whisks them back to 1843. There they meet up with ancestors traveling the Oregon Trail. Stanley serves up a lively blend of fact and fiction as she recounts their journey, shoehorning in information on everything from the rigors of the terrain and weather to trail food (""slam-johns and sowbelly,"" or pancakes and bacon) and prairie fuel (buffalo chips), as well as citing relevant milestones such as the Panic of 1837 and the Louisiana Purchase. Berry (Market Day) adheres to authentic details in her sprightly cartoon-like illustrations, and she accommodates a balanced mix of straightforward text and speech bubbles that allow Grandma to provide some context (e.g., how Native Americans were affected by the Westward movement). The twins' modern perspective offers generous dollops of humor (a pioneer girl boasts that her doll, Jenny, ""even has a second dress!"" to which Liz replies, ""I have a doll named Barbie, and she has lots of clothes!""). Berry makes use of every inch of space, alternating broad vistas with smaller panels (one series shows how the cooking was done), and the endpapers contrast the Oregon Trail in 1843 to its present-day appearance. Given this altogether appealing, highly useful introduction to an important slice of American history, readers will likely be eager to follow the twins on their next excursion. Ages 5-10. (May)