I almost cried when my seven-year-old read Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner out loud to me. I had to sit down and reread the story myself, to make sure he had read it correctly.
Wagon Wheels is the story of the Muldie family moving West from Kentucky to Kansas after the Civil War. The mother dies along the way, so when they reach Kansas it’s just the father and his three boys. They are welcomed into the town of Nicodemus, where they spend the winter and experience some harrowing adventures.
Once spring comes Daddy, as the boys call him, decides he’s not suited for the flat Kansas plains, and wants to find a better place to live. But he wants his boys to stay in Nicodemus, where they have a dugout and friends. He promises to send them a letter once he finds a place for them to live and give them directions.
The boys are eleven, nine and three when he leaves. They care for themselves for the most of the summer, until a letter comes. The letter contains directions on how to find him, 150 miles away.
This story prompted some great discussion between my children and I. We were all amazed that those three boys took care of themselves for several months and then walked 150 miles by themselves to find their daddy. Be sure to read the author’s note in the back of the book – it gives great background to this true story.