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Pioneer Summer

Reading Group Guide

    This is the first book of a trilogy telling the story of eight-year-old Charlie Keller and his abolitionist family as they move to the Kansas Territory in 1855. This book covers the initial trip by railroad, steamboat, and wagon to a plot of prairie near Lawrence.
    Frontier life; Kansas; Family
    • What would it mean to leave everything you know and go to a new place? What would you miss the most? What would you want to find in your new home?
    • What is an abolitionist? How could moving to the new territory support this belief? What else might an abolitionist do to support their cause?
    • What did Charlie learn during the trip to Kansas that he didn't know before?
    • Why is a prairie fire so dangerous? How did starting another fire help stop the prairie fire? What would be others ways of fighting a prairie fire?
    • Look at an historic map of the United States and a current map of the United States to trace Charlie's journey to Kansas. If you were moving from Massachusetts to Kansas now, how much of your journey would be similar to Charlie's and how much would be different?
    • Charlie started a nature journal to record the insects, birds, flowers, and animals he saw in Kansas in 1855. Start your own journal to record the wildlife and plants that you see in Kansas now.
    • Make a model of Charlie's new home in Kansas. Include Spring Creek, the new cabin his father is building, as well as the prairie and timber surrounding the new home and other details from the story.
    This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
    Prepared by Arlene Wiler
    © William Allen White Children's Book Award
    Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

More Books From This Author

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The Long Trail
Sailing for Gold
Adventure in Gold Town

About the Authors

Deborah Hopkinson
Photo Credit:

Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of numerous award-winning children's books, including Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the International Reading Association Award, Girl Wonder, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award, and Apples to Oregon, a Junior Library Guild Selection. She received the 2003 Washington State Book Award for Under the Quilt for the Night. She lives in Oregon. Visit her on the Web at