REVIEW OF: Bound for Oregon,
Reviewed By: Erica
Dangerous (adj): full of danger or risk; causing danger; perilous; risky; hazardous; unsafe. I believe that the word ‘dangerous’ perfectly fits the journey that Mary Ellen, a nine year old girl from Arkansas, is about to make with her family across the United States. In the electrifying novel Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen, the curious child overhears her parents discussing the trip to Oregon yet again, and she knows that she may be leaving her home in Arkansas forever. All she’d ever known was a quiet life with her siblings, Louvina and Cynthia, and her mother and father. So the rushing rapids, the rockiest terrain, the fierce Indians, and the mightiest mountains seemed as if they were from a whole different world. However, reality soon struck, and she was abandoning everything she’d ever known: friends, family, her school, and her past, everything she’d once known. During the treacherous trial to the rich soil of Oregon, she indeed faces all the nightmares she imagined, plus worse horrors, including death. Her old life seems not to matter anymore; all that matters is her future: Oregon. Mary Ellen understands that her life could be in danger as she continues down the Oregon Trail. Her future belongs to her, and it’s her job to protect it like a bear protects its cubs. It’s her job to carry on.
Before Bound for Oregon, I’d only read one other novel about pioneers traveling west. In this true story, I saw Mary Ellen mature as I devoured the book, page by page. I was baffled at how much a girl that young could possess the characteristics of an adult. I’ve been out west once, and while I was there, I saw many enormous mountains, rivers, and unique animals, so it was interesting to compare what Mary Ellen encountered to what I encountered. Her journey and conflicts aren’t exactly similar to the ones that we face today, but that improves my ability to envision what life was like in the year 1852. Overall, I was pretty pleased with this twisting, exciting and perilous novel.
I recommend this factual historic tale to readers age 10 and up. I believe that if you are older, you can get more out of the book, such as character transformation. I also recommend it to people who love history, like myself.