Rachel’s Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl

October 1998


Traveling by covered wagon, young Rachel and her family follow the Oregon Trail from Illinois all the way to California. The terrain is rough and the seven-month trip is filled with adventure. Rachel’s own handwritten journal chronicles every detail and features cherished “pasted-in” mementos gathered along the way.

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1999 Society of School Librarians International Honor Books

1999 ABC Booksellers Choices


From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5-Ten-year-old Rachel records her family’s trip west from Illinois to California in 1850. The girl’s voice is fresh and enthusiastic; for her, the journey is filled with exciting new experiences. She learns to drive the wagon and crack the whip, climbs Courthouse Rock and views the sunset, and even cuts off her long red braids and trades them for an Indian pony. She does have occasional moments of contemplation, thinking about faraway relatives and friends. Overall, however, her journal paints a rosy picture of this dangerous voyage: there are some injuries but no serious illnesses or deaths, encounters with different Native Americans are all friendly, and Rachel’s new baby sister arrives safely at the end. An author’s note explains that the narrative is based on numerous children’s diaries from the period, and that many of the writers viewed the trek as “one long adventure.” The hand-lettered script and yellowed, lined-paper background create the look of a diary. Watercolor illustrations and notes in the margins add to the personal look of the book and often provide helpful supplementary information. Rachel’s Journal is a good choice for those readers not quite ready to tackle the “Dear America” series (Scholastic) and for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans who want to read more about pioneer life. Robin L. Gibson, Muskingum County Library System, Zanesville, OH Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 3^-6. The author of several diary novels, including Amelia Hits the Road (1997), employs the same style in this tale of a pioneer girl traveling west to California in 1850. Rachel records both guidebook particulars (ferrying across the Missouri River, climbing the Rockies, and tramping through scorching deserts) and personal details (an annoyingly perfect travel mate named Prudence, special treats for the Fourth of July, and the birth of a sister en route). The printed script simulates an authentic journal, and the many illustrative sidebars, margin notations, and drawings provide humor and additional information. Although the typeface is occasionally difficult to read and a few of the sidebars seem more suited to a work of nonfiction than to a novel, this will be useful in classes looking for textbook alternatives. Kay Weisman –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.