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Donner Dinner Party

(Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #3)

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4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,938 ratings  ·  435 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 and
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Hardcover, 128 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Amulet Books
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Ethan Davis No, not at all. Obviously he talks about cannibalism, but the details aren't even remotely graphic. The content is presented in a very tasteful way…moreNo, not at all. Obviously he talks about cannibalism, but the details aren't even remotely graphic. The content is presented in a very tasteful way (no pun intended). (less)
Grace Burns I read it about 3 years ago, (9) and that was definitely too soon. However, the other books in the series are all fine for all ages in my opinion.

Community Reviews

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4.14  · 
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 ·  2,938 ratings  ·  435 reviews


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Jessica
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),
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katyjanereads
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
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Chris
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
Emma
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
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
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Karyl
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
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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
Jenn
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.

#26
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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.
David
4.25
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.
Mary-Jane
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
Julia
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.
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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,
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Kasey
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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Joseph R.
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Donner Dinner Party is another one of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, the series of graphic novels about American history's most dangerous and arduous moments. This volume is about a wagon train traveling to California in 1846. The group is the infamous Donner Party, who take an ill-advised short cut through modern-day Utah and wind up trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountain range for the winter. The group sets up camp in hopes of rescue but slowly die off. In desperation, the survivors begin eatin ...more
Brenda
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
Anne
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I tried three different times and just could not get into this book. Despite the maps and illustrations it just seemed confusing and difficult to follow. The characters all looked the same and it was impossible to keep them straight. Also, due to the nature of the story, it seems slightly irreverent to make a comic style book out of this tale.

At the same time that I was trying to read this, I was also reading another nonfiction book about heroic pioneer women. One of the chapters told the story
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Jenn
So, when I was in elementary school, one of the stories that I was morbidly fascinated with was the Donner party. I was horrified/couldn't look away at the thought of people having to eat each other to survive. Nate Hale's amazing artistic talent for rendering emotion, personality, and action in just a few pen strokes makes the story come - ahem - alive - and I've never been so enthralled. The focus on the one family throughout the entire story makes it a personal and intimate portrait of how no ...more
Jenni Frencham
Hale, Nathan. Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party. Henry N. Abrams, 2013.

This graphic novel depicts the events that led up to and the aftermath of the Donner party's emigration to California. Told by Nathan Hale (along with side comments by his two buddies from previous books in this series), this book makes the story come alive without being overly graphic and disgusting about the whole cannibalism thing. The interjections by the narrator are interesting and entertaining, and the
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Lindsay
Maybe 3.5 stars. Not having read any other books about the Donner Party, I can't say for sure how the story could be "improved" upon given whatever information was made available (or survives) from the mid-19th century. I found at least half of this chronicle rather tedious...it picked up once things started getting *really* dire in the Sierra Nevada, but still, all in all it is certainly a tale more for the sheer grisliness of events rather than much in the way of character development. Apart f ...more
Martha
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
In Donner Dinner Party, author Nathan Hale adds humor to a horrific tale, using his Nathan Hale character and the Hangman as occasional narrators for this unbelievable but mostly true tale. The variety of proportions in panels in this graphic novel range from large attractive charts of the Donner Party members at the beginning of their journey, numbered dated and mapped chapter headings, a "who died and who lived" chart of all participants in the Donner Party with an effective key showing how th ...more
Erin
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was so excited when I saw this book! I also wondered how the author would handle the whole cannibalism thing.. Hale did a great job of presenting the facts, but not getting too graphic or disturbing for a juvenile audience. Some of the dialog I even remembered from the PBS documentary about the Donner Party, so I really like that he included that in his writing. It would've been better though with colored illustrations, not just shades of green, which got dull pretty quickly. With humor and co ...more
Simone
I heart graphic non-fiction! This book was hilarious (well, the bits before everyone started dying were) and informative, and puts a human face to this particular bit of history.

Even though I thought I knew the basic story of the Donner Party's downfall - hubris, ignorance, fancy wagons that were too big and heavy to make the crossing - it turns out that plain old terrible luck (and having all their livestock killed or stolen by Native Americans) was really what did them in.

Can't wait to pick
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Andy
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This series is -exactly- what I think graphic novel nonfiction for kids should be: historically accurate, funny, very informative, irreverent, and just flat-out entertaining. This 3rd title in the series nails a very tricky balance of dark but not -too- dark for kids wanting to learn about likely the most famous account of cannibalism in American history. Here's hoping for many more Hazardous Tales!
Shelley
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
These are some of my favorite graphic novels. I love the historical aspect which is told with enough humor to keep the reader engaged and yet still teaches them something. The author does a wonderful job of staying true to the history and even asks the reader to move ahead in the book if they are not able to handle the. gory parts.
orangerful
I love non-fiction graphic novels. LOVE THEM. They are the gateway books into finding out about all kinds of random history. Nathan Hale's series is fantastic since it is written for middle school age readers, the age when most kids start the "history is boring" mantra. Get these books into their hands (especially if they are boys) and you will see students who learn to love history.
Anne
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I had a nice review of this and then Goodreads decided to go rogue in the middle of me writing it. Sorry, it's lost.

I love this time period, and am especially fascinated with the Donner Party. This is a great addition to the collection of works about the tragic event, and an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Heavy on the "ewww" factore combined with a bit of "what happens next?!!!"
Vicky Marie
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good, brief history of the tragic events plaguing the Donner Party. It doesn't go in depth as much as I wanted it to, but seeing as it's a graphic novel for children I could understand why. You don't explain the super gory details of the party's cannibalism without leaving the kids traumatized. I'd have liked more backstory for the party members. But again, children's novel.
Liz
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
My only problem with this was how many of the characters looked alike and I wish they had more distinguishing features. Aside from that this was an excellent graphic novel with plenty of research to back up the story.
Kris Siegel
I'm in love with the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series. I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel telling of the Donner expedition, and I know upper elementary and middle schoolers will love it too. Can't wait to book talk this one!
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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
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Other books in the series

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (9 books)
  • One Dead Spy (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #1)
  • Big Bad Ironclad! (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #2)
  • Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #4)
  • The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman) (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #5)
  • Alamo All-Stars (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #6)
  • Raid of No Return (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #7)
  • Lafayette! (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, #8)
  • Major Impossible (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #9)