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Ranger in Time #1

Rescue on the Oregon Trail

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Meet Ranger! He's a time-traveling golden retriever who has a nose for trouble . . . and always saves the day!

Ranger has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog, but can't officially pass the test because he's always getting distracted by squirrels during exercises. One day, he finds a mysterious first aid kit in the garden and is transported to the year 1850, where he meets a young boy named Sam Abbott. Sam's family is migrating west on the Oregon Trail, and soon after Ranger arrives he helps the boy save his little sister. Ranger thinks his job is done, but the Oregon Trail can be dangerous, and the Abbotts need Ranger's help more than they realize!

144 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2015

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About the author

Kate Messner

72 books1,465 followers
Kate Messner is an award-winning author, TED 2012 speaker, and former middle school English teacher. Her books for kids include THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.,SUGAR AND ICE, and EYE OF THE STORM (Walker/Bloomsbury Dec. 2010) the MARTY MCGUIRE series (Scholastic), SEA MONSTER'S FIRST DAY, and OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW (Chronicle, Books). Kate also wrote SPITFIRE and CHAMPLAIN AND THE SILENT ONE, both Lake Champlain historical novels published by North Country Books.

Kate lives with her family on Lake Champlain, where she loves to read, write, hike, swing on birch trees, and eat chocolate. She also hangs out in various places online.
Visit Kate's website: http://www.katemessner.com

Find Kate on Facebook:

...or follow her on Twitter - @katemessner

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5 stars
795 (39%)
4 stars
761 (37%)
3 stars
386 (18%)
2 stars
61 (3%)
1 star
30 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 326 reviews
Profile Image for Virginia.
570 reviews17 followers
July 7, 2015

First off, let me say my rating is probably closer to 3 1/2 stars-- this book has a lot going for it. Kate Messner's first book in the Ranger in Time Series, Rescue on the Oregon Trail, introduces us to Ranger-- a dog trained for search and rescue work who can't quite pass the tests required to become an "official" SAR dog (because he gets distracted chasing squirrels). Early in the book, Ranger is digging in his yard when he digs up an old metal first aid kit. When the kit's strap passes over his head and around his neck, Ranger is immediately transported back in time and space to the year 1850 in Independence, Missouri-- one of the locations known as a jumping-off point for those preparing to venture into the western territories. Ranger ends up traveling with the Abbott family and Sam--who becomes Ranger's good friend. Along the way, readers "experience" events that commonly occurred as pioneers made their way across the trails of the west on their way to Utah, California, and Oregon.

This book is an excellent historical fiction novel for young readers. Messner has done extraordinary research to ensure that her facts are accurate, and many plot details are adapted from real events recorded in journals and diaries by those who make the trek west in the mid 1800s. Messner also does a good job of making the book appropriate for her audience. There aren't lots of good books for primary or early middle grade students addressing historical events and issues. My biggest complaint about this book-- and it is a picky one-- is that I never really understood how the first aid kit made Ranger travel. I also couldn't understand why he didn't immediately travel back if he had the kit around his neck. I guess I'll chalk these concerns up to the fact that I teach gifted/talented kids who question everything, and I can just imagine the discussions on this one.

8 reviews
January 15, 2018
I love how I can pronounce every word. It would be a good read-out-loud book. I love Ranger. He's such a charmer. I'm so happy Ranger found his way home. The leason in this book is one everyone should know. I like that there's some pictures in the book. It helps the reader understand whats going on. It's all about family and love. That's something everyone should know.
Profile Image for Sarah Monzon.
Author 22 books414 followers
March 9, 2021
Fun series. Time traveling dog. Learn some history. My kids like it.
Profile Image for Jan.
801 reviews25 followers
November 26, 2016
A great series to introduce young readers to not only chapter books, but also to historical fiction. Who doesn't love a story about a dog who rescues people? Not me. If a book has a dog in it, then I want to read it. It's also one of our OBOB selections (Oregon Battle of the Books) for grades 3-5 this year. My adult kid's book group (adults who read kid's books, made up of teachers and librarians) chose it as one of our books to read this month. I was only going to read this first book in the series, but now I'm curious and want to read the rest to find out where the first aid kit that Ranger digs up came from, and how it got there in the first place. And of course why it has those magical time traveling properties.
Profile Image for Melanie Dulaney.
1,323 reviews62 followers
March 15, 2017
A dog who travels through time and saves people--what child could ask for more? Messner is a gifted writer for mid to upper elementary readers and has written several books that I recommend highly to my library patrons. This one is a light, easy read for grades 3-6 and will leave them feeling satisfied and likely to reach for additional books in the series, which does not have to be read in order. Social studies teachers will appreciate the historical backdrop and accurate depiction of the time period featured and readers will be unaware of all that they are learning while following golden retriever Ranger into various places and times saving the day. The only reason for the 4 star review rather than five was due to the fairly predictable pace in the book, but many young readers will appreciate the fact that the storyline does not twist and turn its way to a conclusion.
Profile Image for Laurie B.
451 reviews41 followers
January 5, 2021
I really enjoyed this book! I love dogs and historical fiction, so this series immediately appealed to me. Kate Messner really captured the dog's thoughts and behaviors in a believable way. Any dog parent can probably tell you how much canines adore bacon, so Ranger's constant excitement over that particular food seemed spot-on to me. His thoughts on how to get his human companion up and adventuring again also reminded me of my own dog: "Ranger did not want to take a break. He thumped his paws on Sam's chest, knocked him over, and licked him all over his face. That usually got Luke moving again when he was tired." (p. 76)

But his more serious thoughts were accurate too. I loved this paragraph: "Ranger stayed too, curled up next to Sarah by the campfire. He leaned his big, warm body against her. Ranger understood sad. He remembered when Luke and Sadie's grandmother had died, and everyone cried. He understood there wasn't much you could do about sad. But snuggling sometimes helped a little, so that's what Ranger did." (p. 55)

Overall, I really enjoyed the writing style. Not only is the dog awesome, but the story is exciting! And it's a quick read. I really think kids will enjoy this one, especially those interested in history, survival stories, or dogs. Plus, there's a thorough author's note in the back as well, which I always appreciate in historical fiction.

If the rest of the books in the series are as good as this one, it will be a real winner in my library.
Profile Image for Strix.
247 reviews16 followers
March 5, 2020

god it's so cute

Okay okay, seriously: this is an adorable middle-grade book about a search n' rescue dog named Ranger who gets a magic first aid kit that sends him back in time. This time he goes to the Oregon Trail and spends most of the book helping a family survive the trail.

He's written as a dog - he wants food, he wants family, he wants to sleep. And here's why it's got three stars instead of five: while it's adorable and has great artwork, it's very light. And I'm not the target audience at all. It's detailed like... I mean, this is a book for 2nd-4th graders. So it's as detailed as a pamphlet, and the disasters are relatively simple, often contrived so Ranger can help out.

Which is to say, for what it is I guess it's five stars? But this is my shelf, so it can have three stars and just be cute but too light for my tastes. I might look for the sequel, and I wish I'd read it when I was young.

Either way: Ranger is a VERY GOOD BOY
Profile Image for Christine Salek.
98 reviews15 followers
May 31, 2020
"Ranger understood sad. He remembered when Luke and Sadie's grandmother had died, and everyone cried. He understood there wasn't much you could do about sad. But snuggling sometimes helped a little, so that’s what Ranger did."

Love this relatable text. But my questions about time travel in this universe are unanswered — don't want to spoil by quoting it, but the last sentence calls my assumption that it is linear into question. Ranger seems to be traveling back in time from the same home base (in Narnia style, no time seems to have passed when he "returns" from his adventures), but it's unclear whether those adventures are taking place in an alternate timeline or in this one. Again, just that one ambiguous last line has got me thinking. Perhaps I will learn more later in the series.
Profile Image for Carmen Liffengren.
791 reviews33 followers
September 24, 2021
~ All School Book Club selection read aloud with Liam and James~

A time-traveling golden retriever? Love it! As I read this short novel to my twins, I found that I really enjoyed meeting Ranger, a search and rescue dog from the future. Ranger finds himself needed on the Oregon Trail as Sam and his family encounter all kinds of life-threatening challenges on their journey westward. Even though this series is probably best suited for grades 2-3, Liam expressed interest in reading more about Ranger's adventures in other historical times.

This is our last All School Book Club book as it's the boys' last year in elementary school. I have enjoyed reading these books to them all these years. It's a little bittersweet for me.
Profile Image for Kay.
1,413 reviews13 followers
January 14, 2022
A great kids' read. Somehow sweet, yet it doesn't shy away from difficult topics, such as moving, hardship, death, and loss. Messner does a great job here. (+ an Author's Note in the back with more historical information on the Oregon Trail.)

The Oregon Trail was dangerous and bleak. :( I love how a book about a protective and loyal dog will introduce this period/event to kids.

I loved that Ranger made sure there was another dog to take care of Sam before he returned home. <3
And I especially loved this line on pg. 7 re: moving: Pa said it was all right to be sad. "But your heart has room to love more than one place," he promised.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Hugo's Mom.
129 reviews
June 27, 2020
I think this is a super cute entry-level chapter book. The plot is fast-moving but not insipid, the pictures are cute and the storyline is engaging. A time-traveling Golden Retriever! What more can you want? And most importantly- the dog doesn't die- and added bonus since so much of children's literature seems to always throw in animal death. So perfect for even sensitive readers.
Profile Image for Panda Incognito.
2,867 reviews52 followers
October 13, 2022
This book is well-paced and entertaining, setting a great pace for the rest of the series. Although it's the first book, I read them all out of order and didn't miss out on anything. The series premise gets adequately explained in the framing device of each story, and even though I had hoped for more information in this book about how the time travel aspect worked, there was none.

This story will appeal to kids who enjoy pioneer stories, and it addresses the challenges of traveling the Oregon Trail without being too grim or upsetting for sensitive kids. The historical note shares additional information, and also adds more context about indigenous peoples affected by settlers moving out West.
Profile Image for Olivia.
21 reviews
September 8, 2020
Great books for imagination ☺️ Suggested to read even if you are an adult 🙂
Profile Image for Lisa Welch.
1,158 reviews8 followers
January 25, 2021
Another book that I liked, but I know that a certain group of students I am currently working with will love. Similar to the Time Dogs series, this one involves a Time Traveling Dog that explores different historical events.
Profile Image for Taylor Crane.
5 reviews
December 10, 2020
This book has a great lesson for kids. It's about love and family and Ranger's journey making it back home. I love books about animals, this one promotes imagination with a real storyline. It's more of a book for adolescents but I think young adults would enjoy it too. I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,637 reviews122 followers
April 17, 2015
Ranger is a search-and-rescue dog that does not pass his final test because he can't resist chasing squirrels. Now, who isn't going to love that type of protagonist? Dog-slobbering squirrel chaser. Shucks, I'm that way with food - enticing smells easily lead me off-task. One day, Ranger spots a squirrel and kicks into ADHD mode only to stumble upon a first aid kit that portals him to Missouri in the mid 1800's where a family is going on the Oregon trail to find better farmland.

Sam Abbott is supposed to be watching his toddler sister, Amelia, when she disappears on him. Ranger's search-and-rescue skills click into place and he sniffs out Amelia keeping her safe and endearing him to Sam's family. Although he isn't endeared enough to get a name. They call him "Dog" as if they know he is only going to be with them temporarily. The Oregon trail is treacherous and just the place for Ranger. He helps many others on their adventure whether warning the group of danger or saving lives.

Ranger is the main character with the mentality of a dog that adds humor. Sam is comforted by having Ranger because his dog was too old to make the long 2,000 mile trek journey. Others on the trail lose family to disease. Treacherous animals and river crossings add to the excitement. While this is a historical book, there are plenty adventures to keep the reader flipping the pages.

Even though the dog failed to pass the search-and-rescue test, his skills saved many lives on the Oregon trail. The dog doesn't really have a character arc but readers can apply the message of never giving up in their own lives. Tests don't determine a person's character. In an age of accelerated student testing, this subtle message is worth paying attention to. Other themes include, grief, courage, and importance of pets. Add to that, Kate Messner's clean, tight writing and you have a well-paced plot that will be a good addition to any library.

While this story reminds me of the Magic Tree House series in that it has a character that finds an item that magically transports it back in time, I think the text is higher. At 125 pages it is easy to think it is at a lower reading level, but when I looked up the levels the book is placed in grades 4 or 5. Not that those levels are always correct, but concepts might need to be explained to younger readers. It would make a good read aloud.
Profile Image for Annette.
900 reviews14 followers
December 30, 2014
RESCUE ON THE OREGON TRAIL by Kate Messner is the first book in the newly released, action-packed historical fiction series titled RANGER IN TIME. Ranger the rescue dog is sure to be a hit with young readers.

Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever. Trained as a search-and-rescue dog, he is transported back in time to the year 1850 to help the Abbott family on their journey west along the Oregon Trail.

The authentic historical details mixed with the fast-paced story make this an excellent book for young history fans who are just beginning to read chapter books. Using a rescue dog as the main character was a brilliant move and will easily draw dog lovers into the historical context.

Although the first book in the series focuses on the Oregon Trail, references are also made to the Mormon Trail and the California Gold Rush. The outstanding author’s note section contains excerpts from real journals, facts about training rescue dogs, and additional readings.

Written for ages 6-10, this series is perfect for fans of the Magic Tree House books. Teachers will find this book an excellent interdisciplinary resource for literature circles. It’s a great jumping off spot for a more detailed exploration of the Oregon Trail.

There are lots of great websites geared to children and the Oregon Trail such as Kids on the Trail. Go to http://goo.gl/amWduJ. For a great teacher’s guide, download http://goo.gl/UgTxn6. Check out a video at http://goo.gl/5OlRsN. Check out at cool interactive map at http://goo.gl/JbRonp.

There are also apps you can download with Oregon Trail games. Try http://goo.gl/tc38tx.

The second book in the series titled Danger in Ancient Rome due out June 30, 2015.

ARC Edelweiss
Profile Image for Lori.
382 reviews14 followers
February 5, 2015
Ranger is a dog living a normal life with his owner, Luke, in present day. But one day while digging in the garden in his backyard, Ranger finds a mysterious old metal First Aid kid. When Ranger picks it up, it begins to hum- and suddenly, Ranger finds himself in a different time and place. Ranger finds himself walking with the Abbott family- they are taking a wagon train west on the Oregon Trail. Along the trail, the Abbott family encounter many different dangers- stampedes, rattlesnacks, illness, and dangerous river crossings. Ranger helps the Abbott family but he can't help but wonder: Will he ever find his way home again?

This book is downright adorable. It is very easy to read with a big font and not too many pages. This would be a great book for a reluctant reader. It features history (like "I Survived") and a dog (like "Puppy Place") but it's at a very accessible reading level. It is the first book in a series of books about Ranger, the time-traveling dog, all written by Kate Messner.

There are illustrations that accompany the text throughout the book. Some of them are unintentionally humorous, as it looks like Ranger is often cross-eyed. But I think it adds to the story- especially to give readers that extra visual aid in picturing what life must have been like on the Oregon Trail.

Of course I had flashbacks while reading this book about the Oregon Trail game that I used to play. :) Which is not a bad thing!

Very cute book. I will definitely be buying the rest of the series as it comes out.
Profile Image for Martha.
1,248 reviews9 followers
January 24, 2015
Using search-and-rescue dog Ranger as the main character of this Mormon families' journey out west in the mid 1800's, immediately captures the interest of young readers. The adorable dog on the front cover will lure them into selecting this historical fiction story. Kate Messner writes an exciting beautifully researched tale of a dog who time travels from his present day owner Luke back to 1850, mysteriously transported through a first aid kit the dog digs up. Full of action and suspense,for example during a particularly exciting point, Ranger jumps into the rushing waters of the Snake River trying to save a drowning victim. Challenges are realistic and life threatening as these pioneers contract diseases along the way such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Cholera. One of the characters on this Oregon Trail wagon expedition does not survive, giving the story a believable realistic feeling. For a new generation of young readers who love adventure stories loaded with suspense and important realistic historic details, this time-travel adventure does not disappoint. Couple Rescue on the Trail with Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series for another glimpse of the struggles and joys of pioneer life.

A map of the Oregon Trail expedition in the beginning of the book would help readers visualize the physical features and build their map skills.
Profile Image for Yapha.
2,577 reviews71 followers
February 8, 2015
When Ranger, a squirrel-chasing golden retriever, digs up an old-fashioned first aid kit in his family's garden, he is transported back in time to Independence, Missouri (the start of the Oregon Trail) in 1850. Sam's younger sister Amelia has disappeared and Ranger's search-and-rescue training kicks in. He finds Amelia and then joins Sam and his family on their journey along the Oregon Trail. This is a fantastic time-travel adventure with a solid historical fiction component for young readers. It presents the challenges and celebrations in a realistic and age-appropriate manner. There is enough adventure to readers on the edges of their seats. After all, who wouldn't love a time-traveling golden retriever? Highly recommended for grades 2-4.
Profile Image for The Styling Librarian.
2,170 reviews194 followers
January 4, 2015
Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner – Historical Fiction/Time Travel – 3rd grade and up – Excellent historical fiction/adventure book with a time traveling dog. Enjoyed reading from a dog’s perspective about the adventure and also follow a family on their journey along the Oregon trail. There certainly was heartbreak and challenges thoughout. Fantastic book to read aloud in class. Know it will be appreciated by those who teach about the Oregon Trail, love reading about search and rescue dogs, and enjoy adventure/historical fiction books.

Favorite quote:
“Another night, the mosquitoes were so thick they swirled like flakes in a snowstorm…”
Profile Image for Lorna.
1,269 reviews11 followers
February 8, 2015
I am so excited about this book, the premier title in a new historical fiction, early chapter book series packed with the adventures of a time traveling golden retriever. Ranger finds himself traveling from present day to the 1850s where he becomes a companion to a family traveling by covered wagon to Oregon. Like her other books, this is well researched and the story clips along at a pace that will keep readers flipping the pages for more. I'm happy to hear that book 2 will follow shortly. A great choice for readers in grades 2-3.
Profile Image for Aliza Werner.
1,041 reviews89 followers
January 17, 2015
Once again, Kate Messner creates an action packed adventure sure to dazzle middle grade readers. A time traveling almost-rescue golden retriever travels the Oregon Trail with a family heading west as they encounter the challenges real-life pioneers experienced in the mid-1800s. Well researched, well paced, and an engaging historical fiction read for children. Included in the end papers are explanations of the author's choices of characters and plot lines, as well as, how she researched in order to write the book. Looking forward to watching this series expand!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 326 reviews

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