Review of One Big Open Sky

One Big Open SkyOne Big Open Sky
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Intermediate, Middle School    Holiday    240 pp.
3/24    9780823450169    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780823457496    $10.99

In 1879, Lettie’s African American family begins a westward journey from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nebraska, where her father seeks a better life for them. “We can’t live free / on someone else’s land / picking someone else’s crop! / I need something to call my own.” Eleven-year-old Lettie, her parents, and her two younger brothers load all they can into a wagon and join a caravan of ten families journeying on flatboat and on foot. Cline-Ransome’s spare free-verse narrative centers three skillfully developed female voices: Lettie; her mother, Sylvia; and eighteen-year-old Philomena, on her way to her first teaching job in Nebraska. Lettie keeps track of the miles and spending on supplies while Sylvia does her best to keep the children’s spirits uplifted. Philomena joins the family in Missouri, gaining passage in exchange for help with cooking and laundry. The treacherous terrain, extreme weather changes, and unforeseen tragedies are overwhelming at times, but the sense of community among the travelers offers a prevailing sense of hope. This is a captivating story about African American homesteaders and their claims to land promised them after the Civil War.

From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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