Writing about history as ordinary people lived it.

Sweet Home Alaska

Cover of Sweet Home AlaskaBuy the Book: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBoundListening Library (Audio)
Published by: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
ISBN13: 978-0399172038

Grade Level: 5-6

Overview

Terpsichore has dreamed about becoming a pioneer like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and now, with only two days to pack, her family is joining 201 other families on the way to Alaska. Most of her family comes to love Alaska, but her mother misses life back in Wisconsin. What can Terpsichore do to convince her mother to stay? Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, she develops a plan that includes a giant pumpkin and a recipe for jellied moose nose.

This exciting pioneering story, based on actual events, introduces readers to a fascinating chapter of American history when one of FDR’s New Deal programs took over 200 families off welfare and transported them to Alaska to become self-sufficient farmers.

A Junior Library Guild selection
Available in hardcover, paperback, and a Listening Library audio


Praise

“If Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived in Alaska, she might have written this novel. . . . Heartwarming. . . . A wonderfully satisfying ending. . . . Doesn’t romanticize the hardships these stalwarts faced. Dagg does a fine job evoking a realistic sense of time and place. . . . Trip’s a beautifully realized heroine, and readers will be heartened by her and her friends’ efforts to develop a sense of communal spirit in their new, pristine colony. . . . Cozy, charming, and old fashioned, but in a good way; fine for curling up and reading under the covers—in Alaska or elsewhere.”
Kirkus Reviews

"A memorable tale of physical and emotional survival."
Publishers Weekly

"With conscious homage to Wilder's Little House books, Dagg evokes the same pioneering spirit in a Depression-era settint, lavishing attention on details..."
The Horn Book

"Fact and fiction and real and imagined personalities and events are seamlessly woven into this quaint, energetic, and engaging story...well-blended Depression-era facts will capture and inform middle grade readers."
School Library Journal

"Based on real happenings, this engaging novel is filled with charming characters and a very compelling story set in a time and place readers will find fascinating."
San Francisco Book Review

"Palmer’s history serves as an intriguing backdrop for an episodic tale of a girl for whom the term 'plucky' was invented. . . . Terpsichore is a cozy fictional friend in the tradition of Anne Shirley or, yes, Laura Ingalls."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Join the adventure of wilderness, hardship, and struggle to leave life as you know it behind and start anew. . . . Provides a unique perspective. . . . This is a fascinating look at the struggles families encountered during the Great Depression and could provide many discussions that may lead to a deeper understanding of the time period and the growth of our country based on the decisions of the times.”
School Library Connection

* “The story is full of rich detail about the birth and development of the community…Susan Denaker … gives an expressive fully-voiced performance, bringing out the humor and drama of the story. This is Dagg’s second book, and she has created a resourceful, spirited girl in Trip. Recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction in middle school and above.”
Sound Commentary, on the Listening Library recording

“Little House on the Prairie” fans will appreciate a new frontier in “Sweet Home Alaska”...the novel’s real sparkle is its main character, Terpsichore, an 11-year-old go-getter who washes diapers to raise money for a library and grows a giant pumpkin by feeding it milk, just like Almanzo Wilder.—The Seattle Times

 “…a work of historical fiction perfectly suited for middle school kids…Plenty of research went into this book, which offers insight into what it was like for impoverished Americans to pull up stakes…and try to carve a community from scratch…It’s a sweet story with real-life drama.”
Anchorage Daily News


Backstory

When my son moved from Anchorage to Palmer, Alaska, he bought a house next to a potato field, a house built in the 1930’s. His house got me curious about the early settlement of Palmer, and I was astonished to discover accounts of one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs that took two hundred and two families off relief and shipped them up to Alaska to become self-sufficient farmers. Fortunately, the Palmer Library had first-hand accounts from people who had moved up to Alaska as children with their families in the program, and the Alaskana Bookstore had several books about the early days of Palmer. I bought them all. I eventually had a banker’s box full of notes.

If I were writing a book about the colony, who should tell the story?  I made up Terpsichore Johnson and her friends, to combine experiences of the real children who came up with their families in 1935. But I also included some of the real people, such as Pastor Bingle, Don Irwin, and Dr, Albrecht, who were credited with the survival of the colony.


Discussion Guide

Download the Sweet Home Alaska curriculum guide.