In book one of this diary of life on the Oregon Trail, Pat Hermes tells the story of Joshua McCullough's family's experiences as they pack up their belongings and head west in a wagon train. It is 1848 when Joshua McCullough and his family leave their home in St. Joseph, Missouri, and set off for Oregon on a wagon train. During their seven-month-long journey, many of the other families on the trail suffer devastating losses, but Joshua's is spared. However, Joshua must conquer his fear of water during the many river crossings the wagon train must make. During one dramatic crossing, Joshua heroically dives into a rushing river to save his younger sister Becky. The battered wagon train reaches Oregon after traveling over two thousand miles.
Joshua continues to chronicle the pioneering life as he and his family continue to grow and thrive out West in Oregon. Throughout these times of hardship and happiness, Joshua is always courageous and thoughtful.
Thirteen-year-old Sarah Morrow doesn't think much of the fact that her mother winced a little when she hugged her. In fact, that first small indication of something wrong escapes the whole family. Three weeks later though there can be no escape. Sarah's mother has been diagnosed with incurable cancer and the love this family shares becomes a desperate clinging. But Sarah's mother has a gift. A gift for reaffirming life. And even as she leaves that gift, another one, a letter, will help bring Sarah through the most painful and trying time she has ever had. One of the most honest portraits of death, courage, and, most especially, love can now be shared again with a new generation of children. "Hermes, author of this . . . uncompromisingly candid story makes the reader aware of life's priceless moments and the need for courage. " -Publishers Weekly "A vivid, painful believability. " -The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "A sensitive, touching account. " -Instructor Magazine "This book is by far the best liked book in my reading class. We have read this book in my fifth grade class for the last eight years. The book gives us an opportunity to discuss many issues confronted by young kids while growing up. It also provides an opportunity to discuss death and the loss of a loved one. The students and I have had many heart wrenching talks while reading this book. Many tears have been shed by my students while reading and discussing this book. This is my all time favorite book to read in class. " -Online review