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Donner Dinner Party

(Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,779 ratings  ·  528 reviews
«What would you do to survive?»
In the spring of 1846, a group of families left Illinois and began the long journey to California. To save time, they took an ill-advised shortcut─with disastrous consequences.

Bad weather, bad choices, and just plain bad luck forced the pioneers to spend a long, cold winter in the mountains, slowly starving. What they did to stay alive an
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Amulet Books
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Jaiden There is cannibalism but they don't really go into details about the deaths. So I would say no…moreThere is cannibalism but they don't really go into details about the deaths. So I would say no(less)
Miranda I would say this one is better for middle school kids. I was an adult when I read it, and I found it upsetting. (Also very educational and entertainin…moreI would say this one is better for middle school kids. I was an adult when I read it, and I found it upsetting. (Also very educational and entertaining). The cannibalism is handled as gracefully as it can be; this isn't a gross-out book. It's a book about people trying to survive after very, very bad decisions (seriously, Lansford Hastings was a POS and James Reed was an autocratic idiot). Still, probably a bit too harrowing for younger kids. I'd say save this one for the 11-13 crowd.(less)

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If one of your New Year's resolutions is to lose weight, have I got a book for you! If reading an illustrated version of the Donner Party's trials and travails doesn't make you lose your appetite, nothing will.

I figured I'd enjoy this one, I just didn't expect to love it quite so much. And, who'd a thunk a book about the most famous case of cannibalism in US history would be so danged funny? But, believe me, if you have a slightly warped sense of humor like me, you'll find this one to be hilario
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Okay: wow.

The Donner Party, in which a group of emigrants headed to California turn cannibal to survive, is one of US history's bleaker episodes. It's a small episode, as well, and one often ignored by the textbooks, since it has no political bearing and is, well, distasteful (pardon my pun). And now Nate Hale tackles it in his third graphic novel about American history, and does an amazing job. I mean, wow, people. Despite the heaviness of the topic (and I was, in fact, in tears at one point),
destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]
While the Donner Dinner Party is still an infamous tragedy that definitely strikes me as an adult, when I was a kid, I was obsessed with historical tales of disastrous events like this one. The cannibalism alone was enough to intrigue me, much less all of the other awful layers to the Donner Party! So, when I saw that a nonfiction graphic novel series had decided to tackle the tale, I had to check it out — I wondered if it would sugarcoat things, and frankly, it didn't at all, which impressed me ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, hoopla
If you're looking for something historical to entertain the children and they aren't disturbed by grisly things like cannibalism, well then this is the book for you. Nathan Hale has put a lot of research into the book to make it historically accurate. It's not like he resorted to cannibalism himself. He's just reporting on a true story. Hale does add in plenty of black humor to distract from the harrowing details. Honestly, these are the kinds of books I would have no problem giving my children ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I am definitely not within the target audience for this one, but it would seem that group is a relatively small one to begin with. The humor is very basic and broad and unlikely to appeal to anyone much older than 10. The subject matter is obviously grim and doesn't lend itself to such light treatment. The story (as told here) is packed with dry demographic information and statistical detail.

2.5 stars
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
1. I loved this book.
2. I am going to read another book about the Donner Party called Desperate Passage but I thought I would read this graphic novel first to understand things better. Oddly enough, the book Desperate Passage is in the bibliography at the end of this book.
3. I found my 26 year old self laughing at this graphic novel, so it being made for youth shouldn't deter an older reader from enjoying it. Wait. I wasn't laughing at the situation. There are jokes in this book. I'm not a sadis
Wow that was the best historical graphic novel ever! I loved how the people where diagrammed, so that it was easier for me to remember who was in which party. Mr James Reed.. what a guy! I can’t believe this is real! I want to read more! Excellent even has warnings if you need to skip ahead! Plus the “executioner” is like me and can’t stand when animals die! (Except for the eating ppl part, I haven’t done that..🤨. My son actually passed this for me to read and I would absolutely recommend it! Gr ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Like, I'm sure, most people, I vaguely remember learning about the Donner Party in my U.S. history classes. What I remember: pioneers, mountains, snow, cannibalism. No details or people, which I didn't think were all that important or compelling. So I was surprised to find that such an engaging, entertaining story could be told about the tragedy. In typical Hazardous Tales style, Nathan Hale has found a way to balance historical facts, melodramatic personalities, broad humor, grim realities, and ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Meh, disappointing. The story of the Donner party is fascinating, but unfortunately I don't think the storytelling for this graphic novel does the true historical tale justice. The text and illustrations were just too small for my eyes, and there were way too many characters that just show up without any backstory. The main characters were barely illustrated distinctly enough for me to keep them straight, so adding on random people didn't help. A lot of events seemed squished together (they are ...more
Madeline  Worrell
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent rendition of the Donner party expedition.

The graphics were amazing.

The story is written on a level that makes it easy for young people to comprehend.

A truly sad tale.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you were looking for a good children's book on cannibalism, then this is it. Seriously though, Nathan Hale does a really good job of making American history exciting for kids. The real focus of this tale is the hardships that pioneers travelling to California in the 1840's experienced. If you ever played the old Oregon Trail game, a lot of these situations will be familiar. The cannibalism is handled tactfully and only takes up a few pages, so parents shouldn't worry about that too much. It's ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Okay, so this was really grim. Although I do not at all "really like" the tale that is told in this NHHT, I do acknowledge it was thoroughly researched and presented in a very organized and readable manner. The storytellers (Hale, Hangman and the British officer) do add a bit of levity throughout. There is an adult nonfiction book on my TBR list from the perspective of survivor Sarah Graves. Will be interesting to compare that book to this one. ...more
Amy Layton
Nobody should be surprised that I read this.  Given how many graphic novels I've been reading and how many books I've read about the Donner party, this is just a natural cohesion of the two.  

To be honest, when I first saw this, I was in class and only had a few minutes to get acquainted with it.  Naturally, I wanted to get to the part where they ate people.  (I mean, it was a Children's Lit Collections course for library science so...).  What I found were a couple jokes and I was aghast--such a
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Entertaining and tragic, is the tale of the Donner Party (even though this whole debacle was mostly Jim Reed's fault and the Donner's joined the group later) with many facts I wasn't aware of before. The art style was fun and I enjoyed the way the story was told. Would recommend if you're not squeamish about death and cannibalism. ...more
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Yikes! I guess not surprisingly, this was a real gut-punch of a book. Informative, great pictures, and even a trigger warning allowing readers to skip some of the most gruesome parts. Kind of wish I hadn't shared this w/ my kids (they read it first), although they seem to be less traumatized by it than I am. ...more
I've been fascinated by the Donner party since I learned about that ill-fated expedition to California as a kid. Maybe I'm weird, maybe I'm morbid. I've read several books on the Donner party, but none presented the information so succinctly and in such an easily understood way as Nathan Hale's Donner Dinner Party.

Considering how many people were in the Donner party trying to reach California, after leaving Springfield, IL, it can be difficult to keep everyone straight. But Hale not only includ
Abby Johnson
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
This made riveting lunchtime reading (and I'm not actually kidding...). This is my first foray into Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales and I will definitely be going back for more. The premise of this series is that Nathan Hale is about to be hung for being a spy, but before his executioners get on with the deed, Hale starts telling them a true story from history to buy himself some time. Occasionally the executioners comment on the story as it's being told, adding some much-needed humor to an otherw ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
After reading Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood, I quickly perused my local library to find Donner Dinner Party. I was curious to see how Hale would tackle a story about a group of American pioneers getting stranded while traveling by wagon train to California, given that they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. The story of the Donner Party certainly is not an easy tale to tell, but it was informative while continuing to maintain the charm of the previous Hazardous Tales. There are these t ...more
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not knowing anything about the Donner party going into this book, I enjoyed it a lot. It follows a group of families that are heading west to California a couple of years before the gold rush happens. They travel through unknown territory and struggle with one disaster after another. It really gives some perspective on how different our lives are now. Hale brings some humor to the book to keep it from getting too dark. This is not unexpected given the nature of the two previous volumes in this s ...more
I can see sharing these with Xavier in a few years, and I'm interested in reading the rest of the series myself. I needed something to catch my 7th & 8th grade book clubbers attention and Chelsie recommended this. It was a one sitting read. It was gross, funny, and full of knowledge. I would never have survived the Oregon Trail. Dirt, hunger, no bathroom. Knowing how close they were to the end of the journey when winter set in. I'm amazed any of them survived, much less an entire family.

Russ Bruxvoort
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
History, humor, disgust, fascination, graphic novel all in one. This is a great way to learn about the sad but true story of the Donner party's attempt to make it to California. It is not for the feint of heart. I definitely will be getting this for my 6th grade class. ...more
This is such a disturbing story and I cannot begin to fathom the pain and suffering that occurred throughout the journey. It is so sad thinking of all the little decisions that lead to such an enormous tragedy.
A surprisingly funny, apparently well-researched retelling of a sad bit of American pioneer history that’s become summed up as a punchline. I love the series’ frame story of Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale (not the author) sharing his pre-hanging clairvoyance of US history to come (the Donner Party in this case) and the playful meta-commentary he and his execution party add to the title story.

The Donner story is full of good intentions and tragically bad decisions, but Hale (the author) manage
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
The Hazardous Tales graphic novel series have been very popular for students in our school library so I finally got around to reading what all the fuss was about. These are excellent! I love that each one is about a particular historical event, but it isn't just a historical account in graphic novel form. Believe me, there are PLENTY of those books gathering dust on our library shelf. It's like publishers go, "Oh, graphic novels are popular now? Then EVERYTHING can be turned into a graphic novel ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is definitely one of my favorite book names ever. :) This is surprising graphic novel take on the tragic Donner Party story. It somehow manages to be pretty funny without sugar-coating the actual events.
Stephanie Griffin
Not as fun as the first two volumes, but there is a fun separate one-page story called, “Howe Billy the Ponee and Cashee the Wee Terrier Wos Never Et” to kind of cleanse your palate, so to speak.
Jonah Garner
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
2nd best of the series!
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This was one book that has me looking at it and wondering what I had gotten into by allowing my sister to choose yet another book for me. And for me this was a work that clashes with me for both liking and for not liking it. So where to begin....

First of all I liked the simplistic telling of the story - the matter of fact style that helped the reader to grasp all the important parts of the story, the presentation of facts, the somewhat respectful way that some of the characters were presented.
Kevin Wright
A well-executed, well-researched and entertaining account. This series fills a much-needed niche of non-fiction graphic novels that are both appealing and informative for kids. Even as an adult (albeit one who loves comics), I found it engaging.

Hale's artistic style is simple and cartoonish, relying a lot on talking heads, but ones with expressive faces. Hale does render the occasionally detailed and even sweeping landscape. The simple style is necessary, since the layouts are a little crowded,
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First book of the new year!

Okay, so I really loved this. Donner Dinner Party is a part of the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series, which are graphic novels based on various events in history, usually ones that are a bit weird or gruesome.

Obviously, the story of the Donner Party is gruesome, but this graphic novel was not graphic (ha ha, you know what I mean). My library has it cataloged as a Juvenile Non-Fiction Graphic Novel, and it is perfect for the middle school crowd. It could probably be
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Nathan Hale is the New York Times best-selling author/illustrator of the Hazardous Tales series, as well as many picture books including Yellowbelly and Plum go to School, the Twelve Bots of Christmas and The Devil You Know.

He is the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack. He also illustrated Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, The Dinosaur

Other books in the series

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (10 books)
  • One Dead Spy
  • Big Bad Ironclad!
  • Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood
  • The Underground Abductor
  • Alamo All-Stars
  • Raid of No Return
  • Lafayette!
  • Major Impossible
  • Blades of Freedom: a Louisiana Purchase Tale (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #10)

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