Review Day: The Jumping Off Place

The Jumping-Off Place

"The Jumping Off Place" is set in the early 1900's. It is reminiscent of the "Little House" books. I was actually surprised to learn that it was written before the "Little House" series. This book is a re-release by the South Dakota Historical Society of a book originally published in 1929. It was given the "Newberry Honor" title in 1930.

In "The Jumping Off Place", four orphaned children set off to fulfill their late uncle's dream of homesteading in the Dakotas. They had planned to have their uncle with them. However, an untimely stroke and his resulting death left them setting off on their own to "prove up" his claim. This story is about their determination to make it through 14 months despite hardships common to homesteading, unexpected trials such as a contest on their claim by neighbors intent on causing trouble, and the Dakota weather.

I found "The Jumping Off Place" to be a very refreshing book. It was a very pleasant read absent of much of the language and innuendo you find today-even in youth or young adult books. There was so much detail that it was very easy to picture oneself there with them; as if you were a fly on the wall. The reader gets to see the children grow into young adults as they deal with the death of their uncle while going through their homesteading venture.

My 9yr old daughter picked up this book to read after I had finished. She said it was very hard to get into the book. She also said the "old-fashioned" language was a bit hard to understand. According to her, the book was easier to read and "less boring" after she got past the first couple of chapters. (It should be noted here that she loves the "Little House" series and is always reading everything she can get her hands on; especially historical fiction.)

The younger reader may find it hard to follow if they don't already understand the premise behind homesteading. A short history lesson might make it an easier read for the younger set. A parent should also be available while the younger set is reading the book to answer any questions they may have regarding the story line or some of the language used. It's not bad, it's just not typical of today.

The biographical information on the author at the back helps the reader to better understand the times from which the author came. The short glossary provided at the end serves to help the younger reader better understand some of the language of the time. However, I think it would have been MUCH more helpful to list this at the front of the book as some younger children won't notice it listed on the Table of Contents. My daughter would have found the book easier to read much sooner had she noticed the word list before she started. She found it very helpful once I pointed it out to her.

I would recommend "The Jumping Off Place" to older children and adults who enjoy historical fiction. I would recommend it to younger children only with an adult present to point out the word list and be ready with any questions they may have.

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