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144 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 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.