Review: All the Stars in the Sky

All the Stars in the Sky: The Santa Fe Trail Diary of Florrie Mack Ryder, the Santa Fe Trail, 1848 (Dear America)All the Stars in the Sky
by Megan McDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the Stars in the Sky (Santa Fe Trail) / 0-439-16963-1

"All the Stars in the Sky" takes the reader over the Santa Fe trail as the narrator's family emigrates to their new home. Like many of the Dear America books, the narrator's family life is frustratingly messy - in this case, her mother is newly remarried after having been a widow for many years, and the children are forced to adjust to a new father and a new way of life at the same time, for Mr. Ryder is a merchant and merchants must go where the customers go, in this case, Santa Fe.

Young Florrie learns a great deal through her trail experiences, including the value of forgiveness for her friends and family, the importance of meeting people from other cultures, and the pioneering skills to keep a family safe, fed, and warm in the harsh American wilderness. In many ways, "All the Stars in the Sky" is reminiscent of the other successful Dear America trail diaries, including the Oregon Trail diary, and it is always fascinating to see how difficult and treacherous these trail travels could be for the people traveling them.

For parents, there is a great deal of excitement in this novel, but very little that would be frightening to a young child. However, there is a fatal accident on the trail, when a tent catches fire at night, and there is mention of families dying of illnesses along the way. There is no overt sexuality, but the newly remarried mother does become pregnant along the trail before being put on bed rest in the nearest town to await a difficult delivery. Taken as a whole, this is a wonderful novel for inquiring children, and I was impressed at how sensitive the author is to other cultures - Florrie learns (and teaches the reader!) dozens of Spanish and American Indian words for everything from "candle" to "magpie".

~ Ana Mardoll

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