To Stay Alive

To Stay Alive

Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party

Book - 2016
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Told in riveting, keenly observed poetry, a moving first-person narrative as experienced by a young survivor of the tragic Donner Party of 1846.

The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for nineteen-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and eight siblings. Yet she is hopeful about their new life in California: freedom from the demands of family, maybe some romance, better opportunities for all. But when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann's is a narrative, told beautifully in verse, of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere.
Publisher: Somerville, Massachusetts :, Candlewick Press,, 2016.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780763678111
Branch Call Number: YA FICTION Brown Skila 10/2016


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Jun 06, 2018

I'm not a huge fan of books written in verse, but the events that are behind this book are so fascinating and sad that I had to give it a try. I'm really glad that I did.

ArapahoeStaff1 Feb 15, 2017

I loved this novel in verse! I went into this story only knowing the gruesome tale of the Donner party, not the actually history behind it, and the hardships the group faced. This was beautifully written, and the characters were so well-rounded. As a newfound fan of survival stories, I was very excited about this one!

Jan 27, 2017

The brutal reality of western migration in the 19th century United States is memorably depicted through Brown's poems in the voice of teenage Mary Ann Graves. Initially excited about the prospect of somewhere new, Mary Ann is one of the few members of her large family who supports her father's decision to join a wagon train to California. But as the months wear on, the harsh conditions take their toll. Brown's historical details make it clear that it wasn't as easy as simply following a trail west. The few guides who knew the best routes, across deserts and through mountain ranges, were critical to the survival of each wagon train, and losing the path could have dire consequences. The Donner Party's cannibalism is included, but is handled with subtlety. An excellent complement to middle and high school American history classes, and a good option for teens who love a survival story.


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Jan 27, 2017

chelseasc thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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