Alaska always seemed like that mysterious frontier that everyone was curious about. Nowadays, though, it is easier to reach and explore. “Sweet Home Alaska,” by Carole Estby Dagg, takes us back to a time when the state was still an enigma and brave pioneers were looking for a new world filled with fortune and hope.
It’s 1934, and Terpsichore (pronounced terp-sick-oh-ree) Johnson and her family have come upon hard times at home in Wisconsin. Wanting to provide his family with a better life, Mr. Johnson applies for President Roosevelt’s Palmer County project which was a part of the New Deal. Two hundred and one families would be given forty acres of their own land in Palmer, Alaska. Terp is all for moving to Alaska, always wanting to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her mother and sisters, not so much.
As things at home grow even more desolate, the Johnsons leave behind friends, family, and many possessions that they cannot take with them, including Mrs. Johnson’s beloved piano. When they get to Palmer, they find that their home is not ready and they’ll be living in a tent along with all the other transients that had moved there. Terp and her family find living in Palmer is just as challenging as it was in Wisconsin — just with different problems.
Terp takes everything in stride, treating her new home as an adventure. Not one to sit around, Terp starts up a library for the town, grows gigantic vegetables to feed her family, and hatches a plan to help her mother get over her homesickness.
“Sweet Home Alaska” is a humorous story about a strong female who only sees the positive in the world around her and is resourceful in her quest for a new life. Highly recommended as a great historical fiction read for middle-graders and those just wanting a glance of the past.
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