Author Jean Fritz grew up in China, which she credits for her obsession with American history. She’s written many children’s books about American history, and I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve read. (See my review of several of her books, including What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? here.)
My children read The Cabin Faced West for school last year, and my friend asked me if I had read it too. When I told her I hadn’t, she gasped and encouraged me to read it. “It’s so good, Michelle! I can’t believe you haven’t read it. You’ll love it!”
So this summer, before I put the school books away, I pulled it out and read it. My friend was right – I do love this book, and heartily recommend it.
The Cabin Faced West is historical fiction. It’s based on Fritz’s own ancestor, Ann Hamilton, who moved to the woods of Pennsylvania as a young girl. The people are real, but most of what happens to her is a story – except for the climax of the book, when General George Washington himself visits her cabin.
In the book, Ann is very lonely, missing her best friend she left behind in Gettysburg. There are no other girls on Hamilton Hill, where she lives with her parents and her brothers. Ann resents leaving Gettysburg until that very special visitor helps to change her mind.
The Cabin Faced West is written at a third- or fourth-grade reading level, so it’s a good introduction to a bit longer chapter books. It also gives a realistic look at the hardships and the hard work of settling the west.