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The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party

by Marian Calabro

Published by Clarion, 1999
192 pages
ISBN: 0-395-86610-3

Age 9 and up

Primary documents from survivor Virginia Reed make up the core of this compelling account of the disastrous journey from Springfield, Illinois, to California. Just 12 years old when she was a member of the Donner Party, Virginia never lost the spirited resilience that served her well during the ordeal. Her observations about other members are direct and nonjudgmental, even when she mentions the cannibalism people engaged in to survive. Calabro rounds out Virginia's story with the accounts of other members who frequently bickered with one another and whose recollections sometimes conflict. Her research into primary documents includes letters, diaries, autobiographical narratives, and news accounts from the time. Appended items include a complete list of the names and ages of members of the Donner Party, a list of those who died, a chronology of events, and a selective bibliography for children. She also publishes the complete, unaltered text of Virginia Reed's 1847 letter to her cousin back home in Springfield. The letter describes the journey in detail and concludes with the poignant line, "Never take no cutofs and hury along as fast as you can." CCBC categories: Historical People, Places and Events. (KTH; Jan 31) 1999 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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