Journey to Plum Creek
by Melody A. Cuate

Texas Tech University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-896-72741-0.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 11/12/2012

Teen/Girls; Younger Readers; Fiction: Historical

Melodie A. Cuate's book, Journey to Plum Creek, targets young readers who are 9-12 years old, approximately fourth grade or above. Journey to Plum Creek is book number six in the Mr. Barrington's Mysterious Trunk series, and Cuate's approach to historical fiction continues to be enjoyable for history students of all ages.

For anyone new to this series, Mr. Barrington (Mr. B), the social studies teacher, owns an old trunk with historical artifacts and the mysterious ability to transport the children back in time to historical events.

This new adventure begins when Jackie's grandfather, Mr. Montalvo, takes Nick, Jackie, and Hannah on an unplanned trip to Mount Bonnell after they get out of school early one Friday afternoon. After making a stop to stock up on water bottles and Grandma's cookies, everyone feels ready to tackle the steep climb to the top. When Hannah asks why Jackie's grandmother seemed upset by the mention of the Texas Rangers, Mr. Montalvo tells the children about their family history, the Texas Rangers, Comanche raids, and events that led to the Battle of Plum Creek, while they drive to Mount Bonnell.

Upon arrival at Mount Bonnell, the kids climb the long staircase to the top to search for the cave where Bigfoot Wallace, a Texas Ranger around the time of the Texas Revolution, lived while he was sick. They find the cave, along with interesting petroglyphs and an inner chamber with a mysterious glow coming from Mr. Barrington's trunk; however, this trunk looks newer, with brighter colors and no labels worn and torn from many trips. It's also in the possession of Elijah Barrington, one of Mr. B's ancestors.

Mr. Barrington's trunk pulls Nick, Hannah, and Jackie, into the past. A mysterious man who appeared and disappeared several times as they hiked the trail, searching for the cave, eventually shows up during their adventures at the Battle of Plum Creek. The poor fellow pulled into their time must be even more confused than the children are when they find themselves held hostage by Indians. At least, Nick, Jackie, and Hannah have been on other trips through time, and they have Hannah's ring to translate languages and allow them to be understood too.

As hostages, Hannah becomes the servant of a Comanche woman, while another Comanche family adopts Jackie to replace a daughter who died, and Nick joins up with Texas Rangers, Jack Hays, Bigfoot Wallace, and others, to rescue his sister and her friend. When the time comes to return to the present, all they have to do is figure out how to use Jackie's pink cell phone—the only thing in the trunk when they finally find it—to get out of there. What good is a cell phone in the 1800s?

As usual, adults will enjoy the story as much as the children, and they'll probably learn some new historical facts too. The Journey to Plum Creek is an action-packed adventure with colorful descriptions, as well as a good dose of humor. Cuate also includes a timeline, brief biographies of the characters, maps, and a couple of interesting copies of art representing the historical events.

Melodie Cuate is a fourth grade teacher with travel and classroom experience. In addition, she offers teacher workshops based on this series. In 2006-07, Cuate received the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award. McAllen, Texas is home to Cuate, her husband, and daughter, along with several pets. Visit her website.

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