Stay Alive, by Rodman Philbrick, is historical fiction written for middle-grade readers, and it tells the story of Douglas Allen Deeds, a young man who set out on an epic quest to reach California in the year 1846 via the Oregon Trail. Sadly, both of his parents had passed away some time before, but Douglas was determined to follow through with his family’s plan to settle in California and to raise cattle there. You may have heard of the family that lead the expedition: George and Tamsen Donner, a.k.a. the Donner Party.
The Donner Party’s journey from Illinois to California was filled with obstacles and poor choices. By the time they reached the Sierra mountains, winter was was upon them and the mountain passes they needed to pass through were filled with snow, making it impossible to travel through with cattle and wagons. They became trapped, with little food and water – certainly not enough to last the winter. Many members of the party died along the way, and many more would die in the snow-covered mountains waiting for rescue to come.
All I want for Christmas is not to die.– Douglas A. Deeds, December 25, 1846 (p.119)
The book is written in the style of a personal journal or diary, and is written by fictional character Douglas A. Deeds, a 15-year-old orphan who travelled with the real-life family, the Breens. If you know anything about the Donner Party, you know that things did not go well for them and that the story ends with the survivors eating the flesh of the dead – cannabalism.
As it is written for middle-grade children, the cannabalism aspect of the story is only mentioned in a very few journal entries and is not described in any detail, so there’s no reason to be concerned that your 10-year-old is going to read a detailed account of people eating people.
I found this to be an easy and enjoyable read as the short journal entries kept me reading and wanting to know what happened next. I definitely recommend this book for young readers who are interested in historical fiction.
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Can you believe it’s May already?!
You may have seen a notification from me elsewhere explaining that I’ll soon be focusing (nearly) exclusively on my Substack content. I am truly grateful to everyone who has been following my journey here on WordPress over the past couple of years. I would be honored if you would head over to davidsheley.substack.com and subscribe to my newsletter. Initially, it will be the same content as you see here, but as I make the transition, I will allow my WordPress site to fade into the background as my Substack publications come online. If you’d like to know more about what this Substack stuff is all about, drop me a comment, and I’d be happy to tell you more.
The Nutcracker Trilogy
I will continue to shamelessly promote these books because I’m so excited about being a small part of Drosselmeyer’s journey. If you’re new here, let me encourage you to check out The Nutcracker Trilogy by Paul Thompson. All three books are available in print and as e-books. Books one and two are available as audiobooks, narrated by yours truly. Click the links below to explore.
Oh, and it doesn’t have to be Christmas for you to enjoy these stories (just like it doesn’t have to be Christmas to enjoy Harry Potter).
Apple Books / Apple Audiobooks / Amazon / Audible
Want to see what else I’m up to?
If something you’ve read here on my website has piqued your interest, click the link below to see all the places you can find me. Granted, I take every opportunity to point people to this site, but I encourage you to explore my links.