Children’s Book of the Week: Cabin on Trouble Creek

Cabin on Trouble Creek by Jean Van Leeuwen

I have no idea how I stumbled upon this book…somewhere I saw a description of the plot and something about it being nonstop action (and since we’ve read a few too many no-action dreary books lately, it seemed worth a try). Daniel and Will go to Ohio with their Pa to find some land and build a cabin, and then Pa goes Back East to get the rest of the family and bring them to the cabin. Except…he doesn’t come back. So Daniel and Will are left alone, wondering, and trying to figure out how to survive, especially as winter begins to descend. One comment Eli had was, “I liked this book because there weren’t any bad people in it,” which is true. They saw wolves and bears, they had to figure out how to catch fish and rabbits, and how to make cups and bowls and mittens and snowshoes. They get some life-saving help from a Native American named Solomon, which also helps to positively influence their view of Native Americans (and of people in general). But there’s no evil villain, and it was kind of nice not to have a big meanie to worry about. The whole time I was feeling like I wished the Little House series was this fast-paced. It just seemed like so many of those books focused on, you know, sewing petticoats or reading in the candlelight or just dreary existence (I’m looking at you, Long Winter), and not enough on action.

I know there is a whole genre of books like Cabin on Trouble Creek (My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, The Sign of the Beaver) but this was the first one we’ve read as a bedtime book, and we loved it (also, this one skews to a younger audience than those other ones do). I appreciated the opportunities to talk about perseverance and self-reliance in a realistic manner (i.e., not in the context of dragon fighting or fantasy, which seems to be the other genre our bedtime reading is heavy in). This is the most-discussed-afterward book I can remember in a long time — it helps that it’s currently winter, and there is 4 feet of snow outside, so we can say, “Hey, can you imagine if you were Daniel or Will and you had to figure out how to find food in this?”

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