This book was one I read in maybe elementary or middle school (between 2000-2006) that I have been unable to find anything about for years. I’ve googled every detail I remember, called libraries and purchased books online that I thought might be it only to be disappointed.
The books cover I think was beige or brown, with maybe the back of a covered wagon on it?
It starts out that the family of the girl the book is centered on is moving to settle land in maybe the west? I assume they are settlers or pioneers. They are going to a big wooded area to build a log cabin. She has a little brother or possibly little sister.
Before they depart, the girl’s grandmother gives her a locket with a piece of her hair in it to take along with her. I remember the hair maybe being brown or gold and the grandmother joking her hair had not always been silver. They leave and along the way they stop at an inn/tavern? Some men try to mug or harass them and the little girl’s braids are tugged by these men hard enough to hurt. That night she was so upset about this that she took a pocketknife and sawed them right off at the base. Her hair was very short after doing it. Her mother is very upset when she wakes up to discover this and smooths them out on her lap. Her younger sibling remarks they looked like maple syrup? I could be falsely remembering that. The father was very angry, thinking those men had done this to his daughter in the dead of night. The girl admits it was her, though.
They leave this area and somewhere along the way it starts to storm horribly. The children are in the back of the covered wagon resting. The younger sibling is asleep and somehow the girl’s locket falls off the wagon. I distinctly remember her hopping off the wagon and it explaining she concentrated very hard to visualize where she saw it fall. She plunged her hand into a puddle and felt something cold, her locket! She found it and tried to run to catch up to the wagon, but could not for whatever reason. The storm was too loud for her family to hear her shouting to them, so she was left behind.
She now has to go the direction she knows her family is going and find them. The rest of the book describes her journey.
At one point, she finds her way to another inn where she begs for food. The owner is a woman who makes her work for her food, clearing the tables. When she is done, the innkeeper sits down with the little girl and watches her eat the scraps and leftovers. She is allowed to stay so long as she works. There are two? other girls staying there as well. They make fun of her short hair calling her “fuzzy” as a mean nickname. One night she has trouble getting to sleep and somehow sloshes pickle juice onto her clothes. The other girls kick her out of bed because she stinks, so she gets up and leaves.
Along the way she is walking through a wood and encounters a hunter? who she is afraid of. The hunter realizes this and starts to tell a story or sing so that she comes out and comes to him. He remarks he thought she was a little boy. The man is kind and helps her find her way. It’s blurry here, but he either helps her find a sign to follow or he helps her all the way to her family. When they get close to her family, she observes the trees are all cut from the very tops. Someone explains that they were cutting the trees down and cutting off the narrow part on the top and when they do that, the trees base is so heavy it ends up standing back up by itself with a loud “thump”? Sounds weird so don’t take this detail to heart.
She does find her family eventually and its great and her father has already begun work on their cabin. They celebrate with new neighbors and family. There is dancing and everything. The mother ties a ribbon in her daughter’s short hair and runs her fingers through it, remarking on how there was a natural curl to it. I think the girl dances with the hunter that helped her? and that’s the end of what I remember.
I think maybe there might be “home” or “journey” in the title but I have expanded beyond that.
It is a lot of info but I have dug and dug and I haven’t found anything for this book. I know more of what book it is NOT than I do about what it is. I’ve looked over every archive of ‘pioneer’, ‘covered wagon’, and ‘Oregon trail’ on the internet.
It is none of the little house books, it is NOT Ellie by Dean Cummings. This was the closest I could find to it and bought it because there was no summary of the book online. It is not Painted Sky, not Sarah Plain and Tall. It is not Pioneer Girl. I’ve looked at the Dear/My America books and it doesn’t seem to be any of those. I’m super stuck on this.
Thanks for any help!