I need to preface this review with a bit of explanation. As many of you know I live in Utah and I grew up in western Idaho, which means we heard a lot about pioneer stories growing-up both the traditional Oregon Trail, ones complete with covered wagons, gold mines, buffalo and American Indians plus heavy dose of the Mormon Trail stories as well, being that I belong to the Mormon church or rather The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So when I first saw Charlotte’s Rose was part of the selection for the Children’s Literature Book Club in June I was not too excited to read about another western migration story. However, the author, Ann Edwards Cannon, was going to be at our book club (it doesn’t look very good if you haven’t read the book). Plus I am not always a fan of historical fiction (and I taught U.S. History for 5 years and I made my students write historical fiction, funny huh? ). The main reasons is I am picky when it comes to historical fiction. If an author hasn’t done their research and then written well enough tomake me believe I am in that particular time period than I just can’t get into the story.
But I have to say that I loved Charlotte’s Rose!!!I was with Charlotte the whole way and I wanted her to succeed. Charlotte’s Rose is about a Welsh handcart company full of Mormon immigrants who are making their way west to Utah. A handcart is similar to a wheelbarrow and is pulled by a person and were designed to allow immigrants who were too poor to afford a wagon to still make the trek across Great Plains. It was by in large a success allowing over 3,000 converts to move to Utah.
Charlotte is a 12 year old girl traveling with her father and one of the women in the group dies in childbirth leaving an infant daughter. The father, struggling to deal with the grief of losing his wife refuses to care for the baby. Twelve year old Charlotte volunteers for the task, names the baby Rose and literally carries her across the Great Plains.
I have to say I really felt like I was in the 1800s and I thought that Ann Cannon did an excellent job, her research is superb and I thought this book appeals more to a national audience. Really I think she hit the nail on the head as to what it was like to be a poor immigrant coming to the United States. Like a lot of historical fiction, Charlotte’s Rose is based on a true story. Ann once met a man who said that a pioneer relative who at the age of 12 carried a baby on her back across the Great Plains as part of the Mormon migration to Utah and that became the inspiration for this story.
I learned a valuable lesson, that you can’t always judge a book based on previous experience with stories that are similar. I really do think this book appeals to a general audience, it’s not didactic or preachy, it really is about a girl who struggles to find herself while caring for this baby named Rose.
Charlotte’s Rose is currently out of print, used copies are available and at book club Ann stated she is hoping to get the rights to this book, which I truly hope she does.
What books have you been surprised that you liked?