Hattie Big Sky was inspired by the author’s great-grandmother who single-handedly “proved up” on a Montana homestead. Many thanks to the librarians at the ImagineIF Libraries of Flathead County, Montana for helping me find an audiobook for this project.
Hattie Inez Brooks is a 16 year old orphan living in Iowa with her distance relatives, Aunt Ivy and Uncle Holt. Over the years Hattie has lived with various relatives but was never wanted by any of them, including Aunt Ivy. One day Hattie receives a letter from Montana informing her that her Uncle Chester Wright passed away and left to her his homestead of 300 acres, a house and its contents, a horse and a cow. Hattie sees this as her chance to become independent and make a real home for herself.
Full of hope and optimism about her future, Hattie leaves for Vida, Montana in the dead of winter with her cat Whiskers. Arriving in Montana, Hattie is in for a few surprises. Her Uncle’s “house” is nothing but a poorly built shack full of mice and no indoor plumbing. She then finds out that homesteaders are given 3 years to “prove up” on a claim and that there are only 10 months left to prove up on her Uncle Chester’s claim. This means that in this short amount of time she must single-handedly cultivate 40 acres of land and set 480 rods of fence.
Hattie relies on her inner strength, determination and faith to face the many hardships of homesteading. Through all the adventures, joys, sorrows, tragedies and successes of the following year, Hattie learns what is most important in life: friendship, family, faith and the strength and wisdom to always do what is right in life.
Awards: 2007 Newbery Honor Book, 2006 Montana Book Award, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2006 Cybils nomination, 2007-2008 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award nomination