Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
Published by Penguin Young Readers Genres: Children's Books, Children's Fiction (Tween), Coming of Age
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This exciting pioneering story, based on actual events, introduces readers to a fascinating chapter in American history, when FDR set up a New Deal colony in Alaska to give loans and land to families struggling during the Great Depression.
Terpsichore can’t wait to follow in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s footsteps . . . now she just has to convince her mom. It’s 1934, and times are tough for their family. To make a fresh start, Terpsichore’s father signs up for President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project, uprooting them from Wisconsin to become pioneers in Alaska. Their new home is a bit of a shock—it’s a town still under construction in the middle of the wilderness, where the residents live in tents and share a community outhouse. But Terpsichore’s not about to let first impressions get in the way of this grand adventure. Tackling its many unique challenges with her can-do attitude, she starts making things happen to make Alaska seem more like home. Soon, she and her family are able to start settling in and enjoying their new surroundings—everyone except her mother, that is. So, in order to stay, Terpsichore hatches a plan to convince her that it’s a wonderful—and civilized—place to live . . . a plan that’s going to take all the love, energy, and Farmer Boy expertise Terpsichore can muster.
Tell us a little about yourself and your books.
After working as a librarian for many years, surrounded by books, I finally worked up the courage to write books myself. My first book, The Year We Were Famous, was based on family lore about my Great-grandmother Helga’s 4,000-mile walk with her daughter Clara across the country in 1896.
My second book, Sweet Home Alaska, was inspired by my son’s move to Palmer, Alaska. I became intrigued by of interviews with old-timers who had come to Palmer as children with a New Deal program I had never heard of, and I eventually had gathered enough material for a book.
Why historical fiction?
Writing historical fiction requires research, which gives me an excuse to hang out at the library and to follow my curiosity in lots of improbable directions, from species of mosquitoes in the Matanuska Valley to biographies of Will Rogers and popular children’s books of the 1930’s.
Do you think Historical has a place in Children’s/Middle/YA Literature?
Of course! Historical fiction supplements curriculum by showing how historical events affect ordinary people that children can identify with, and stimulates the imagination.
How important are libraries in your life? Past and present.
I started volunteering in my school library in 1953, and have had a library connection ever since. I worked my way through college as a clerk at Seattle Public Library, and after filling in for the Children’s Librarian during her vacation, I decided to become a children’s librarian.
Over the next thirty-five years, I worked as a children’s librarian, branch manager, and assistant library director. After retiring, I volunteered at the closest elementary school library.
Do you think it is important to write strong female leads? Why or Why not?
It’s important to write both strong female and male leads, so children realize that although there are circumstances they can’t control, there are often actions they can take to make their futures better than the present.
What inspired this book?
When my son moved from Anchorage to Palmer, Alaska, I became interested in the history of the town and was amazed to discover a trove of information about the Depression-era program that transported 202 families to Alaska to become self-sufficient farmers.
Why do you suppose historical fiction may be popular with readers? What appeals to you about historical fiction?
Historical fiction, from the points of view of people who lived through historic events, makes history real. I remember coming across an entry in a diary of a woman who lived through the Revolutionary War . She lamented the shortage of mosquito netting, and shared a pattern for a shirt collar with a friend. These ordinary details don’t make it into the history books, but take history from the abstract to concrete.
I have always loved to play dress up and imagine myself living in other times and places. Now I write about other times and places.
This story really was fascinating! I took a trip back in time, to place and era I knew very little about.
Historical Fiction is a great way to get students and even your own children interested in different aspects of the past. Sweet Home Alaska is a great hook book and introduction to what life was like during the Great Depression, pioneer life, and being a kid through it all.
Carole Estby Dagg was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and has lived in Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. She has degrees in sociology, library science, and accounting. She spends most of her time writing and reading, but her real-life adventures include tiptoeing through King Tut’s tomb, sandboarding the dunes of western Australia, riding a camel among the Great Pyramids, paddling with Manta rays in Moorea, and smelling the penguins in the Falkland Islands. She is married with two children, two grandchildren. Her son lives in Palmer Alaska, and that is what inspired her to write this story.