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.
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.