Tucket's Travels: Francis Tucket's Adventures In The West, 1847-1849 by Gary Paulsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is actually a whole 5-book series bound in one volume and tells the complete story of Francis Tucket's adventures in the old west, starting with being kidnapped by Pawnee after straying too far from his family's wagon train. Over the next two years Francis meets a number of different people, some good and some very bad, as he suffers through many dangers and hardships as he works to find his way West and hopefully reunite with his family.
I bought this for my nephew, as he is a generally a reluctant reader, but does enjoy the adventure and survival stories found in many of Paulsen's books. I have to say, from the summaries I thought it sounded like a great story for a kid, but I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it. I was a bit concerned about how Native Americans would be portrayed, since these books were written before there was much concern for cultural awareness or sensitivity, but I was pleasantly surprised there, too.
While I can't judge how accurate or authentic the portrayals were, I was pleased to see Paulsen did not fall back on stereotypes and the typical tropes. Different tribes were identified by name and were shown to have their own cultures and languages, and they were not portrayed as savages, but merely as people trying to survive and protect what was theirs, with some individuals being kind and friendly while others were hostile. Paulsen also provides notes at the end to give more historical context and correct misperceptions perpetuated by the TV and film industries.
The pace moved along pretty quickly and while it has a happy ending for Francis, there are many hardships and sad circumstances portrayed, as well as some significant violence, including various deaths. An attempted rape is alluded to, but the language used is vague and ambigous, so would go over the head of many young readers. The violence is realistic to the time period, but is not described graphically. Hunting animals for food is also described, as one would expect considering the story and time period.
I would highly recommend this to young readers who are interested in adventure and survival stories, and it is probably one of the few middle-grade Westerns still around; actually the only one I can think of, which makes it unique.
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