Prairie Whispers

3.27 avg rating
( 132 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780142403068: Prairie Whispers

Colleen didn't mean for Ma and Pa to think that the wagon woman's baby was their own. It was almost an accident, the way Colleen's stillborn sister got switched with the dying woman's baby. Ma had been too ill to know what was happening; Pa had been away. How could Colleen refuse when the woman begged her to take the newborn girl? She had meant to tell Ma and Pa a hundred times, but the truth never seemed easy to say. Now that the baby's father has returned, Colleen must find a way to keep her secret, or the truth might destroy everything and everyone she loves. A new reading discussion guide is included in the book.

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From School Library Journal:

Grade 5-8-Amid the prairie grasses along the Missouri River in the 1860s, 12-year-old Colleen McCall finds a dying woman and her newborn inside a lonely wagon. Promising to protect the baby from the woman's negligent husband, she substitutes the infant for the stillborn her mother has delivered prematurely and takes a gold watch and strongbox at the woman's request. Trapped between her promise to the child's mother and the emotional trauma over her stillborn sister, she struggles to make things right on her own. Suspense builds when the husband returns, questions Colleen about his missing possessions, and thinks she knows more than she's telling. In a dramatic finale, a prairie wildfire purges Colleen of deception and guilt. She is ready to confess to her parents about the baby's true identity and discovers a flicker of compassion in the dead woman's husband. Although Colleen's spontaneous, independent decision to carry out the wishes of an unknown woman might seem improbable, the rugged prairie life has acquainted her with the thin line between life and death, grief and happiness, and her desire to make good things happen is understandable. As in Bluestem (Philomel, 2000), Arrington has created a powerful portrayal of a time and place. Characters are well drawn, and, as Colleen discovers, multidimensional, and a sense of foreboding hovers over each page. Vivid descriptions of the prairie terrain, wild bird migrations, and weather enrich this captivating, suspenseful tale.
Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Gr. 7-12. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive" might be the slogan of this taut story set on the South Dakota prairie. Colleen's sister is stillborn, but her mother is too ill to know. Colleen seeks help, and, ironically, the woman in the nearby covered wagon has also given birth. That infant is well, but Mrs. O'Brien knows that she is dying. She tells Colleen that she doesn't trust her husband and begs her to take the baby. One baby without a mother; one mother without a baby. Colleen makes the switch, and though she promises herself that she will tell the truth, the baby brings so much happiness that she keeps the secret. When the baby's suspicious father returns, one lie spins into another. Arrington masterfully tightens the noose in each short chapter as Colleen desperately tries to keep the pledge she made to Mrs. O'Brien, knowing that she brings danger closer as Mr. O'Brien figures out what has transpired. There are a few manipulations, but readers will be caught up in Colleen's story. The book ends as Colleen is about to tell her parents the truth. What will she say? How will her family react? Such questions will make an excellent writing exercise for teachers who use this book in the classroom. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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