The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party

by Marian Calabro

Primary documents from survivor Virginia Reed make up the core of this compelling... read more

Primary documents from survivor Virginia Reed make up the core of this compelling account of the disastrous journey from Springfield, Illinois, to California. Just 12 years old when she was a member of the Donner Party, Virginia’s voice never lost the spirited resilience that served her well throughout the ordeal. Her observations about other members of the party are direct and nonjudgmental, even when she mentions the cannibalism people engaged in to survive. Calabro fills in Virginia’s account with the accounts of other members who frequently bickered with one another and whose stories sometimes conflict. Her research into primary documents included letters, diaries, autobiographical narratives, and news accounts from the time, in addition to photographs, drawings and maps. Appended items include a complete list of names and ages of the Donner Party; a list of those who died; a chronology of events, and a selective bibliography for children which includes books, videos, and web sites. She also includes the complete unaltered text of Virginia Reed’s 1847 letter to her cousin back home in Springfield which described the journey in detail and concluded with the poignant line “...never take no cutofs and hury along as fast as you can...”

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2000

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