Uncle Jim made a claim on a homestead in South Dakota, the “Jumping-Off Place,” last August; but now that he’s gone, the four orphaned siblings he was raising must leave their home in Wisconsin to take over the claim. It’s either move to South Dakota alone, or move in with Aunt Jule who is a hard person to live with. After they finally arrived at their homestead, they quickly discovered that learning to live off the land was not going to be their only battle. Just a few days in, they realize that not only had a villainous man and his family tried to take over the land, but they also are vandalizing the property in an effort to drive the children away from their claim. Inspired by her own years of homesteading, McNeely wrote this Newbery Honor-winning novel about life as a young homesteader in the early 1900s.
In the summer of 1910, four orphans leave their home in Wisconsin to "prove up" their claim to a parcel of land on the South Dakota prairie. Seventeen-year-old Becky Linville and her younger siblings Dick, Phil, and Joan hadn't intended to move to the newly opened Rosebud Reservation by themselves. But with their Uncle Jim's untimely death, the children are forced to follow up on the claim without adult supervision.
Uncle Jim left detailed instructions for his young relatives; but right from the start, homesteading turns out to be far more difficult than they expected. A family of ornery squatters have set up a shanty on the Linville claim and vandalized the property. A drought threatens the summer corn crop, and winter brings blizzards, relentless cold, and near-starvation. But prairie life isn't as lonely as it seems, and the Linvilles gradually form strong bonds within their far-flung community. The support of their new neighbors, together with their own growing self-reliance, helps the children rise to each challenge. An exciting tale of adventure, resilience, and triumph over adversity, this 1930 Newbery Honor Book was inspired by author Marian Hurd McNeely's homesteading years.