Title: Dear LeviDear-Levi
Author: Elvira Woodruff
Pages: 119
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★★

Remember Dear Austin? Well, that book was a sequel to Dear Levi!

The Story.

Twelve year old Austin Ives is embarking on a mission worthy of a grown man. He is traveling by wagon train all the way from Pennsylvania to Oregon to claim the piece of land that his father staked out before he died.

Life on the wagon trail isn’t without its pleasures – Austin has several young friends with whom he enjoys hunting. But it’s also tough – deadly tough. One mistake while fording a river could mean the loss of several animals and an entire wagon-load of supplies; or even someone’s life.

Austin is grateful to the Morrison family for taking him in – he especially appreciates the loving instruction that he receives from Mr. Morrison. But as the trail becomes tougher, and the people become weaker, every day is a struggle. Will Austin and the Morrisons make it to Oregon? And will Austin make it in time to take over his father’s land?

Praises.

I appreciated the depth and variety of relationships that were displayed in Dear Levi. Austin writes often to his brother, maintaining his tie to home, while also engaging with the families around him. The entire reason that Austin is embarking upon this trip is because his father wanted to raise his family in a land of opportunity. Austin misses his father, but finds solace in the companionship of Mr. Morrison and Reuben, both of whom function as father figures for him. Austin says of Mr. Morrison,

“It’s good to be around someone like Mr. Morrison. He’s not a big man, but he’s strong in his beliefs and conducts himself in such a manner as to warrant respect. I hope to be like him when I’m grown.” [pg. 46]

As a contrast, Frank’s father is a mean man who has no patience with his son, and who only takes time to complain about or yell at Frank. Eventually, Frank runs away to escape from his father’s harshness. In the search that follows Frank’s disappearance, Mr. Morrison is shot. The grief amongst his family is genuine. There is no latent frustration towards Mr. Morrison on the part of his children. He was a just man, and he treated his family with love.

*Spoiler* When Austin finally arrives in Oregon, he discovers that his father’s land has been sold by the man that his father trusted to hold it until Austin’s arrival. Austin expresses frustration at his father for trusting a dishonest man, but Reuben reminds him of his father’s love for Austin and his family. Reuben then informs Austin that he has purchased the claim back, and as the novel closes, Austin and Reuben are planning to live there together.

When an Indian squaw is shot and killed by one of the members of the expedition, Mr. Morrison becomes very angry because he believes that ‘all people are God’s children.” [pg. 45] I appreciated Mr. Morrison’s sentiment (valuing the sanctity of life) but wish that he would have expressed it differently (not every human being a child of God, but all being created by Him).

Another man expresses his indignation at the annihilation of an Indian village thus.

“A victory is when something has been won,” he said. “What has been won here? Four hundred lives have been taken, and because they are not white-skinned people, because they have different dress and ways, we celebrate their deaths. But had they been white, what would we have called it then? Victory? No. Slaughter.” [pg. 61]

Austin asks Levi to pray for him at the end of one of his letters.

Cautions.

Austin writes, “Reuben told me that the Indians believe the beaver has a great soul, and on seeing such work as this dam, I believe it.” [pg. 90]

Austin’s friend, Hiram has a bad habit of lying. He never gets away with any of his lies, because they are so obvious. Also, Reuben tells a tall tale which is known to be exaggerated.

Hiram mentions a hex as a possible explanation for a mysterious occurrence, but the real explanation quickly comes to light.

Luck is mentioned several times.

‘Darn’ and ‘gee’ are each used once.

Conclusion. I preferred Dear Levi over its sequel Dear Austin. Dear Levi has more worthwhile themes and the protagonist is a boy of stronger character than the protagonist from Dear Austin.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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