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The Year We Were Famous

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  514 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
With their family home facing foreclosure, seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, need to raise a lot of money fast—no easy feat for two women in 1896. Helga wants to tackle the problem with her usual loud and flashy style, while Clara favors a less showy approach. Together they come up with a plan to walk the 4,600 miles from Mica Creek, Washington, to New ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 4th 2011 by Clarion Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Divergent by Veronica RothUnearthly by Cynthia HandAcross the Universe by Beth RevisWither by Lauren DeStefanoAngelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
2011 Debut Authors (Young Adult and Middle Grade Lit.)
73rd out of 263 books — 2,256 voters
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Class of 2k11
17th out of 49 books — 148 voters

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Community Reviews

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Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This is one of two novels based on the true story of Helga Estby and her daughter Clara, who walked from Washington to New York in 1896 in hopes of earning $10,000 with which they could save their farm. I couldn't put the book down, and also couldn't imagine walking all that way, through all kinds of weather and over all kinds of terrain. I have to admire their tenacity and determination. This novel, for young adults, was written by Helga's great-great granddaughter, so I think she had a special ...more
Christina Mandelski
Feb 01, 2011 Christina Mandelski rated it it was amazing
Don't let the quiet-looking cover fool you, this book is an adventure from start to finish. Based on a true story, fast moving and engrossing, you'll sit there thinking, 'these women really did this'? Facing impossible odds, they really DID!

Dagg (who is the great-grand niece of the actual Clara Estby) expertly weaves the day to day events of the trek with the emotional journey of Clara. In many ways Clara is a very typical older teen, trying to find a balance between family duty and her own des
Amelia, the pragmatic idealist
Fabulous YA historical fiction! The Year We Were Famous has a lot to offer readers - fun, original story (that just so happens to be a *true story*), thoroughly interesting characters, and highly intriguing chunks of American history and geography. The story is based on the real-life experiences of the author's great-grandmother and great-aunt, who, in 1896, trekked clear across the country (Washington state to NYC) by themselves. The book is set against the backdrop of the American suffragette ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Serena rated it did not like it
Let us establish one thing first. Calvin Coolidge was not president before William McKinley, and was not responsible for the economic troubles of 1896. Cleveland was president then, and thus can have some of the blame.

If you are wondering why I need to state this, then you should know that Mrs. Dagg wrote that Coolidge was president during the 1896 election. After reading this gross historical inaccuracy which I hope was changed in later copies of this book, my gut was screaming at me to abandon
Jennifer Marie
Feb 23, 2011 Jennifer Marie rated it it was amazing

The Year We Were Famous
Carole Estby Dagg
Grade 6 and up
288 pages

Set in 1896, The Year We Were Famous is based on the true story of the author’s great aunt and great-great grandmother. It’s a fast-paced historical adventure that will please all.

In order to save her family’s farm, seventeen-year old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, set out to walk across the United States in hopes of raising enough money to save the farm from foreclosure. They start in Spokane, Washington and work their
Jen Bigheart (I Read Banned Books)
Mar 17, 2011 Jen Bigheart (I Read Banned Books) rated it really liked it
Shelves: signed
Now this is a stinkin' cute YA historical fiction. I'll be honest, HF is not my strong suit and I have been trying to read more in this genre. I happened to win this copy from The Class of 2k11 last month, and the book has writing in the margins from Dagg filled with insider information. Notes about what made the cut from original drafts, and scenes based on photographs or other writings. These little tidbits were so enjoyable that I wish all of my books were like this.

The Year We Were Famous i
What fun! And it's based on a true story. It was very interesting to read the thread of reality in the author's notes at the end. In addition showed persistence on her part to get the book published! Would be an interesting mother/daughter read, although parent should be prepared for some "sex education." Stayed up late reading this one as I had to know how it ended. Lots of adventure, history and humor.
Mar 10, 2012 Sonja rated it really liked it
Loved this book, especially as a campanion to Linda Hunt's "Bold Spirit" about the walk Helga and Clara Estby took across the country from Spokane WA to NY in 1896. The author of this book, Carole Estby Dagg, is Helga's great-granddaughter. She spent 15 years writing this book, especially written for young adults. It is a fictional account of the walk told in Clara's voice. I was fortunate enough to hear Carole speak about her book in the town where I live. The walk itself is testament to two gr ...more
Apr 26, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014reviews
I definitely liked Carole Estby Dagg's The Year We Were Famous. This is historical fiction based on a true story, a true family story. It is fiction; liberties have been taken. Liberties that work in favor of a not-so-bleak ending.

Clara Estby is the heroine of The Year We Were Famous. She is the oldest daughter; she is seventeen. The family farm is in big, big trouble. Her mother, Helga, who suffers--and suffers understandably--from depression, works with her daughter to brainstorm a way to "sa
Jan 20, 2011 Angie rated it really liked it
Loved it! Carole Dagg tells the fictionalized story of her great-aunt's trek across the US in 1896. It's a tough time for two women (mother and daughter) to walk cross country in order to save the family farm. Dagg keeps the pace fresh and the journey interesting through out. I won't give away the ending, but it made me want to exclaim Uff da! (You'll have to read the book to get the reference!)
I thoroughly enjoyed this Young Adult novel. Two women, a mom and daughter, walked all the way from Spokane, WA to New York City in 1896 to try to win $10,000 to save the family farm. True story! This is a fictionalized account, but since based on fact, and the author is a descendant of those "pedestrians," I was amazed. Over 4,000 miles, following the railroad tracks the entire way.
Feb 14, 2011 Christianne rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed this story. I especially liked learning the "real" story in the author's note in the back.

Not sure it would have enough teen appeal to get picked out of my public library teen collection. It would be great reading as part of a US History course.
Sandy Brehl
Based on Estby-Dagg's family history, this is the story of a mother-daughter team walking across the face of the United States in order to save the family farm. That should be enough to draw readers. What I found, though, is so much more. The writing is exceptional- vivid, tense, and emotional. The characters and their relationships are complex, revealing individual depth and social issues as well. The extensive research underlying this family story reveals itself on every page, yet never weighs ...more
Stephanie A.
May 29, 2014 Stephanie A. rated it really liked it
I've been trying to walk more, so this book is a great motivator. Feeling ready to stop after 3 miles? PSHAW. People can do 25 in a day, this is nothing. Why not double your effort? As for the content: fascinating chapter of sadly obscure history. These women were an inspiration and had the adventure of a lifetime. I wish I could have met them, but I quite enjoyed their fictionalized personalities and all the exciting things that happened over the course of the trip. It's a shame their own writt ...more
Nov 27, 2012 T rated it liked it
clean. not entiresly satisfying. kind of interesting at times.
Kira Beaubois
Jan 13, 2016 Kira Beaubois rated it really liked it
I received this book as a Christmas gift. It was beautifully written, the whole story just seemed to flow together like poetry. I loved the way it made me feel scared, terrified, heartbroken, excited, indignant, and so mad I wanted to shout at people. I haven't come across a book with so many emotions packed in so hard for a long time. The fact that it is a true story, seems to magnify the intensity of the adventure. If I were to write a list of books I recommend, "The Year We Were Famous" would ...more
Sally Kruger
It is 1896 and Clara Estby is seventeen. Her goal is to attend college and become a writer, but first she must help her family. Her mother Helga recently took to her bed claiming she suffers from consumption. Clara is used to her mother's bouts of what is likely depression, and she tries her best to lend a hand caring for her siblings and her father.

Clara knows another concern her mother has is the threat of losing the family farm. Harvest have been extremely poor in recent years and the bank ma
Margo Tanenbaum
Debut novelist Carole Estby Dagg was inspired by her own family history to write the delightful new young adult historical novel, The Year We Were Famous. Based on the true story of the author's great-aunt and great-grandmother, this adventure-filled novel set at the time of the suffragist movement tells the tale of 17-year old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, who decide to walk clear across the United States from the small Norwegian-American farming community of Mica Creek, Washington to New ...more
Mundie Moms & Mundie Kids
I absolutely loved this incredible journey. Inspired by true events, The Year We Were Famous is a story that is full of hope, courage, and never giving up. Following the journey of the mother-daughter team of Helga and Clara, who in hopes of saving their farm and making money from their story, walked from Mica Creek, WA clear across the country to New York City, New York.

During the story's era of 1896, these two courageous women were armed with very little as they set out on a trek that was eit
Cindy Hudson
May 03, 2011 Cindy Hudson rated it it was amazing
Seventeen-year-old Clara longs to escape the confines of her family homestead in small Mica Creek, near Spokane, Washington. But finances are tight, and the family is in danger of losing their home and land if they don’t raise the money needed. When Helga, Clara’s mother, comes up with a plan to walk from their home to New York City as a way to earn money, Clara goes with her. The question is, will her trip show a way for her to leave home forever, or will it bind Clara more tightly to the famil ...more
I picked this book up because it sounded interesting. A mother and daughter undertake a transcontinental walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City. Based on the true story of the author's grandmother and great-aunt, it is quite an uplifting story of family, determination, and courage. I very much enjoyed the book and felt the author captured the emotions of the two women as they proceeded on their journey quite well. The voice of Clara rang true as that of an 18 year old girl trying to bala ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it
Shelves: strong-women, writing
Desperate to earn enough money to save the family farm in 1896, thirty-five-year-old Helga Estby comes up with the idea of walking across the country, starting near Spokane, Washington, and ending in New York City. Her daughter, Clara, accompanies her at the request of Clara's father who is worried about his wife's stamina. Dressed in their finest clothing and carrying satchels, the two set off across the country, intending to work in exchange for food and shelter along the way. Of course, they ...more
Dec 30, 2011 Carin rated it really liked it
What a cute, sweet book! And yet, it also has a lot of deeper themes and topics that would be perfect for a book club but it doesn't hit you over the head with them and if you prefer to just read it superficially for the story, it's still fun and enjoyable. (And the jacket doesn't photograph well - the book is a lot prettier in person than the images make it look.)

It's 1896. The country is in the midst of yet another depression (we had a lot of them in the 1800s). The Estbys are barely scraping
This novel is based on the true story of the author's great-grandmother and great-aunt. In order to save their family farm in Washington state, mother and daughter accepted a $10,000 wager to walk across the country in 1896. After the death of her son Henry, Helga takes to her bed in a fit of dismals, leaving seventeen-year-old Clara to care for the younger children and the home by herself. Clara's father is trying to come up with ways to save the family farm and keep them from destitution but o ...more
May 22, 2011 Cathy rated it really liked it
The Year We Were Famous is a fictionalized account of a Norwegian=American mother and daughter who in 1896 walked from Mica Creek, Washington to New York City in hopes of saving their family farm. The author is the Great granddaughter of Helga, the mother, a suffragist and undoubtedly bipolar, who made a bet to reach New York City by foot by a specific date. They set out in their long dresses and corsets, each with a satchel containing some medical supplies, a change of socks, journals and a can ...more
Jun 04, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it
While browsing for books for the Western Genre Challenge, The Year We Were Famous caught my eye. The story of a mother and daughter crossing the United States on foot. In the 1890's. Sounds intriguing. I'm glad I gave it a chance. It was certainly an interesting story.
Clara and Helga Estby decided to walk across the United States to help save their farm in Mica Creek, Washington. They owed a $1000 in back taxes and couldn't think of a way to raise without doing something drastic. Helga was oppos
Retirement Reader
Dec 04, 2011 Retirement Reader rated it it was amazing
The Year We Were Famous (by Carole Estby Dagg) was an engaging historical novel. This is a wonderful adventure story of a real mother-daughter team, Helga and Clara, taking proactive action to save the family farm in the late 1800s. Carole Estby Dagg's telling of this true story is through the eyes of the teenage daughter Clara and uses well researched intelligent prose to fill unknown details. In a series of heartfelt, frightening and sometimes dangerous or frustrating adventures, the two women ...more
Women's Group
Nov 29, 2011 Women's Group rated it it was amazing
The Year We Were Famous (by Carole Estby Dagg) is an amazing and heartfelt novel about a teenage girl’s walk across the United States with her mother in the 1890s—all for the sake of a bet to win the $10,000 prize that can save their farm in eastern Washington state. The story is engaging on at least three levels. First (perhaps foremost), it is a story of adventure: the fears, hardships, and deprivations along the 6-month trek from Mica Creek, WA to New York City as told from the point of view ...more
This historical fiction novel is based on the author's Great-Aunt and Great Grandmother's trek from Spokane Washington to New York City. In an attempt to save their farm in Mica Creek, Clara's mother, Helga, tries to make money by walking from the West Coast to the East Coast. This was during the women's suffrage movement so their hopes were not only to raise money but to show support that women can do things on their own--including the right to vote.

I think this is a great book for girls and fa
Apr 04, 2011 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Why I read this: I actually got a request from the author, which doesn't happen often to me and the more I read about this book, the more I felt driven to read it. And so I did. :)

Plot: Based on family stories, Carole has created a fantastic historical fiction novel about a journey of a young woman with her mother from the west coast to the east coast of America during the late 1800s. Scattered with letters, a bit of romance and some serious danger, this is a book you won't be able to put down.
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After careers as a children's librarian, certified public accountant, and assistant library director, I retired early to do what I had always wanted to do: write. My first book, The Year We Were Famous, was based on the true story of my great-aunt's 4,000-mile walk with her mother across the country in 1896.

My second book, Sweet Home Alaska, was inspired when my son bought a 1930's house across f
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