Addie Across the Prairie

Book Description

Unhap­py to leave her home and friends, Addie reluc­tant­ly accom­pa­nies her fam­i­ly to the Dako­ta Ter­ri­to­ry and slow­ly begins to adjust to life on the prairie.

Awards and Recognition

  • Char­lie May Simon Book Award nom­i­nee (Arkansas), 1987–88
  • Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture Award nom­i­nee (Utah), 1989
  • Indi­ana Young Hoosier Book Award nom­i­nee, 1990
  • Iowa Chil­dren’s Choice Award nom­i­nee, 1989–90
  • Nebras­ka Gold­en Sow­er Award nom­i­nee, 1989–90
  • Okla­homa Sequoy­ah Chil­dren’s Book Award nom­i­nee, 1989–90
  • Rebec­ca Caudill Young Read­ers’ Book Award nom­i­nee (Illi­nois), 1990
  • Sun­shine State Young Read­er’s Award nom­i­nee (Flori­da), 1987–88

Reviews and Comments

“Addie and her fam­i­ly are Dako­ta Ter­ri­to­ry home­stead­ers; although nat­u­ral­ly timid, she proves her courage by mak­ing friends with Indi­ans who vis­it when she is alone with her small broth­ers and again by sav­ing her­self and the youngest by tak­ing refuge from a prairie fire in a well … straight for­ward­ly writ­ten … authen­tic (sto­ry)” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Read­ers will warm to Addie and her fam­i­ly, will find this sto­ry well-paced and excit­ing and will vic­ar­i­ous­ly expe­ri­ence the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the open­ing of the West.” (Book­list)

A Note from Laurie

Addie Across the Prairie began as a per­son­al adven­ture. For years I had heard sto­ries passed down to my moth­er by my grand­moth­er about how my Great Aunt Lau­ra and her broth­ers and sis­ters trav­eled from Iowa to Dako­ta Ter­ri­to­ry to home­stead. This fam­i­ly folk­lore intrigued but did not sat­is­fy me. Per­haps it was my train­ing as a jour­nal­ist that made me want to know exact­ly what hap­pened. What was it like to be nine years old, my Great Aunt Lau­ra’s age, and leave every­thing famil­iar behind? How did her fam­i­ly adjust? How did they survive?

Ten lined, yel­lowed note­book pages launched my search. I dis­cov­ered a let­ter writ­ten by my Aunt Lau­ra that gave an account of her trav­els in a horse-drawn wag­on in 1882. The let­ter was writ­ten when my aunt was mar­ried, fifty years old, and strug­gling to make a go of a home­stead west of the Mis­souri Riv­er. On these pages, titled “Pio­neer­ing,” she told in sim­ple, unas­sum­ing lan­guage the sto­ry of her child­hood in Dako­ta. On the last page, her last sen­tence drifts down to a blot in the bot­tom cor­ner. “As I grow old­er it seems that every year is more like pio­neer­ing.” And that was all she wrote.

I spent the next two years inter­view­ing sur­viv­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers and sleuthing into the past through micro­film cen­sus and agri­cul­tur­al records. I hunt­ed through Civ­il War release papers, home­stead claim files, and news­pa­per arti­cles. My search brought me home to South Dako­ta. I locat­ed diaries, let­ters, and taped oral his­to­ry inter­views with peo­ple who had home­stead­ed in Dako­ta dur­ing the 1880s. On one of the tapes an old man from South Dako­ta remem­bered being four years old when a prairie fire raged through the prairie near his house. The fire just missed his house by one-half mile. The man remem­bered his moth­er grab­bing his hand and hold­ing his baby broth­er while walk­ing around the house and praying.

I drove around dusty back roads and found the place where the fam­i­ly’s orig­i­nal claim was locat­ed. The great, vast prairie is long gone. The area is rich farm coun­try now, oper­at­ed by a cor­po­rate farm­ing out­fit. Up the road where a farm house once stood, I man­aged to find a small heap of foun­da­tion rub­ble and rust­ed wag­on wheel rim. I like to think that maybe that wag­on rim belonged to my great-grandparents.

When it came time for writ­ing, the fact and fic­tion began to blur. What emerged was a com­pelling lit­tle girl I named Addie. Her expe­ri­ences are loose­ly based on those of Great Aunt Lau­ra and of oth­er home­stead­ers I was for­tu­nate enough to have encoun­tered in my research. These were peo­ple extra­or­di­nary and ordi­nary, brave and not so brave, whose sto­ries for the most part have been for­got­ten, exert per­haps as their own fam­i­ly folklore.

Fun Fact: I want­ed to name the main char­ac­ter in the Addie books Lau­ra but my edi­tor said that would be too many Lauras run­ning around the prairie.

Addie Across the Prairie

the Addie series, Book 1

writ­ten by Lau­rie Lawlor
illus­trat­ed by Gail Owens
Albert Whit­man, 1986

Please look for this book at
your favorite pub­lic library
or used bookseller.