Reviewed by Administrator on April 21, 2010.
Indians, outlaws, or gun smoke here. The plot involve teenagers Hawkins and Tommy O' Hallahan under the mentoring of the flawed father figure, John Henry Kenton, and is driven by the "open range" cowboy life versus progress symbolized by barbed wire. Then, of course, there was the weather. Although supposedly insulated and comfy in our homes with our twenty-first century technology, even today the forces of nature from Katrina to California fires to floods to earthquakes to climate change still preoccupy us and dramatically affect our daily lives.
Numerous history books and articles exist about "blizzards" including the Great Plains "Blizzard Of 1886". Historians conclude the "86/87" devastation was a major factor ending the Texas cattle drive era. However, other than Rolvaag's powerful description of a blizzard in his Giants In The Earth, I am not aware of much fiction describing the winter storm ordeal. The author's portrayal of being caught in a blinding, below zero snow storm is vivid and captivating. No wonder children grew up fast on the frontier.
Yes, if the main character's name, Jim Hawkins, sounds familiar, the three time SPUR award-winning author named him after the YA main character in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. "Hard Winter's" Jim uses the adventure classic to help him learn to read. Teen readers should easily identify with and relate to the experiences of the developed characters. Teachers should add Hard Winter to their reading list and consider the novel for course and curriculum adoption. 225 pages
Robert Louis Hicks
Arkansas City High School Library
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