cover image Journey to Nowhere

Journey to Nowhere

Mary Jane Auch, Mj Auch. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4922-0

Mem's family is hit by the Murphy's Law of pioneering--if anything can go wrong, it will. In migrating from Connecticut to upstate New York in 1815, 11-year-old Mem is called upon to save her mother by hitting an attacker over the head with a tree limb, save an old man who gets bit by a rattlesnake, save herself after she gets lost in the wilderness, save her brother from a black bear and save her pig from wolves. Meanwhile, her parents accidentally drop Mem off the back of the wagon and drive off for several hours before they realize it, chop down a tree and almost kill their children, forget to properly lash down their wagon so they lose half their possessions, and nearly get swept away in a river after jumping in. The best part of this novel is where the family, alone in the wilderness, waits in vain for neighbors to show up to help them build a cabin--they come a day late, delayed because one of the families' houses has burned down. The concept of hapless pioneers is deliciously intriguing and probably very accurate; their descendants are the legions of Americans who hammer their thumbnails and get lost on the interstate. While it's unlikely that real-life settlers would have escaped unscathed from the consequences of such unrelieved carelessness or ignorance, the family's bumblings will open readers' minds to the hazards and privations of the pioneer life. Ages 9-12. (May)