At the beginning
Author: Jim Murphy
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
"Once, in Pennsylvania, he and I were alone before the first day of classes began. „Every year a new beginning,” he said. „Children will walk in here today can’t read or even count. By the end of the session they’ll have more in their heads than they ever dreamed of. That’s one of the rewards of teaching, Sarah Jane. Passing on these skills."
My Face to the Wind is a glance into the lives and hardships of the first settlers in the American prairies. Part of a series called Dear America, the book has at its end a few pages of American history to illustrate how people came to live in those unwelcoming lands, what kinds of trouble they had to overcome and what kept them going. It turns out there were two main powerful forces that sustained them: religion and education, and I would add it was also stubbornness. They wanted to make a living there, and they were confident that with the help of God and hard work nothing could stop them. They also believed education to be a powerful ally because they thought that knowing how to read, write and do arithmetic was a way of becoming prosperous.
The story in Sarah Jane Price’s diary is an example of the conditions the first teachers and their scholars had to overcome in order to have a proper school and be able to teach and learn in it. Her story is about the young daughter of a teacher killed by the black fever in Broken Bow, Nebraska, in 1881. Sarah Jane, only fourteen decides she does not want to leave Broken Bow after her father’s death and that she would become a teacher like her father was supposed to be on their arrival there. She refuses to go to the Orphan Girls Asylum, a decision that makes some people angry with her, and therefore she does everything that stands in her power to get the job at the school. Though hard at first because nobody believes in her, except her friend Ida, and she is given a sorry excuse for a building to teach in, no school supplies for the children and a wage that is hardly enough to pay for her rental room in Miss Keizer’s House, she doesn’t give up. Her determination helps her get what she aims for and much more in return.
The books that are a part of the Dear America series such as this one, A Journey to the New World. The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple, The Winter of the Red snow. The revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, A Picture of Freedom. The diary of Clotee, A Slave Girl, or So Far From Home. The Diary of Mary Driscol, An Irish Mill Girl along with twenty more such diaries are all small bits of history of what is today’s America.
Easy to follow, written in a fast pace which does not leave time for boredom.
For those who enjoy historical novels.