Monday, March 3, 2014

Readdreamrelax #31 The Journal of Jedediah Barstow, An Emigrant on the Oregon Trail, Overland, 1845 by Ellen Levine


Summary: Orphaned after losing his parents in a rafting accident, Jedediah Barstow must find the courage to follow his family's dream westward along the Oregon Trail.

Having lost his parents and younger sister when they tried to ford a river along the Oregon Trail, Jedediah Barstow decides to make his way to the Oregon Territory on his own. He is "adopted" by the Henshaw family, who allow him to travel in their wagon in exchange for his help with the daily maintenance work along the way. Jedediah's adventures, along with the friends he makes and the lessons he learns, make for an unforgettable story of a brave young boy who sets off to discover a wild, new world.

As  a child, I never read the My Name is America series due to them being marketed towards boys instead of girls. I was simply happy to stick with the Dear America series and learn bits and pieces about American history through them. Since then, however, I have grown up, and I began to wonder what I might have missed by ignoring the My Name is America series. I decided to start with The Journal of Jedediah Barstow by Ellen Levine.

Before I started reading The Journal of Jedediah Barstow by Ellen Levine, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so my expectations were pretty low. At the start of the story, Jedidiah Barstow is an orphan who has lost his parents and younger sister during a river crossing. He tries to cope with the loss by focusing on the minute details of the day.  He also has to consider important questions such as whether or not to go back home and if not, who he will stay for the remainder of the journey. Then, as the journey to Oregon continues, Jedediah’s life begins to change. The whole story spans over five months in the year of 1845.

Something that I liked about The Journal of Jedediah Barstow  by Ellen Levine is that towards the end there is a map marked with the places where they stopped so that the reader could follow along with the story.

I’m not male, but I suppose this type of journal will be popular with boys. While I liked learning about the Oregon journey as well as the chores the kids had and the fact that Jedediah Barstow questions what he wants to do with his life and why people are different from one another, I have to admit that what frustrated me the most is Jedediah’s writing style, which seems to be written in what I would call a sort of ‘unlearned’ style. I actually had to re-read it numerous times to make sure I understood it correctly. At one point Jedediah gains some friends, one of whom used to be sort of an enemy, but I might have missed the description of why the enemy decided to befriend Jedediah in the first place.

While the book did try to focus on the people in Jedediah’s life, I really couldn’t grasp how the characters changed throughout the story. I also wanted to know why Jedediah’s family decided to travel to Oregon in the first place, and the arrival towards the epilogue didn’t really seem to match the main story because throughout the trip, Jedediah kept trying to choose a profession for himself, wanting to be a doctor, a carpenter and so forth, yet it’s not clear how he ended up choosing his final career. I didn’t understand how that progression was made because in the main story, he expressed very little interest towards the final career.

All in all, this was a disappointing read for me.

2 out of 5

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