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The Year We Were Famous

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  667 ratings  ·  164 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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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Christina Mandelski
Jan 04, 2011 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
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
Grace Liberatore
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Have you ever been told that something is too impossible to be done? In the late 1800s, and even to this day, women were not expected to complete challenging tasks. In this book, however, The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg, a mother and daughter try to disprove that. They put their minds to a dangerous task to prove that women can be challenged and overcome the hardest tasks. They prove that the impossible is possible.
In this novel, Clara, a teenage girl, lives with her mother, Helga,
Amelia, free market Puritan
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
Jennifer Marie
Feb 03, 2011 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
Aug 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ya
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
Jen  Bigheart
Feb 26, 2011 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
Mar 10, 2012 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
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. ...more
Oct 30, 2010 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!) ...more
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. ...more
Feb 06, 2011 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.
Nov 27, 2012 rated it liked it
clean. not entiresly satisfying. kind of interesting at times.
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars This mother-daughter adventure is based on the true story of the author’s great aunt, 18 year old Clara Estby, who walked from Spokane, Washington to New York City with her mother. Her mother Helga promoted the 7 month walking trip to show women could do anything, promote women’s suffrage, and earn money as a book deal to save their mortgaged farm. They walked with very little and had to ask strangers to feed and house them along the way.

I wished it had been longer and went into their
Molly Walker
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-books, kid-lit
I really enjoyed the story of Helga and Clara's walk across the country, their (mis)adventures, and the people they met along the way. Despite enjoying the overall story, the writing often felt choppy to me and the ending felt very rushed. Additionally, I hope the factual error regarding Calvin Coolidge / Grover Cleveland has been updated for future editions.

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
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
Jun 06, 2011 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
Cindy Hudson
May 03, 2011 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
Mar 13, 2012 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
The Dusty Jacket
It’s 1896 and the Estby family is just one auction away from losing their family farm. They must either raise more than $1,000 or lose everything. Inspired by her daughter Clara’s story of Nellie Bly, the American journalist who traveled around the world in 72 days, family matriarch Helga begins writing letters seeking a financial sponsor who will pay them to walk from Washington to New York. When a publisher in New York City offers them $10,000 to make the cross-country trek, the game is offici ...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
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
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 7th-grade-shelf
I really liked how this book had the plot of the walk, and then always went back to the relationship between clara and ma. I think Ma and Clara have really confusing relationship. They are always there for each other, but sometimes really annoy and bother the other. Before the walk, I think that ma knew that Clara would come with her and her whole family wouldn't let her go with out another family member.

I think that the walk made their relationship a lot stronger, and now they appreciate the
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing story--based on the real-life journey of Helga and Clara Estby who walk from Washington State to New York City in 1896 to save the family farm. Writer Carole Estby Dagg (Helga's great-granddaughter) does an amazing job of weaving a few stories together: The journey itself which is quite an adventure as they walk through Indian territory and lava fields and through blizzards and flash floods. But also it's Clara's story as she discovers her own heart. The historical details are ...more
The Library Lady
I really wanted to love this--it's based on a true story, it's historical fiction of the Patricia Beatty sort, but the author's enthusiasm for her family story just didn't translate as well into a YA book as it could have in the hands of someone like Beatty. The ending was particularly awkward--the author seems to have wanted a more uplifting ending instead of sticking to the real story, but somehow the ending just doesn't satisfy. Disappointing--another of those books where I wonder if the "pro ...more
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie A.
May 29, 2014 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
Eric Simonetti
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I originally read this book because it's very beginning hooked me with the prospect of adventure and it delivered. It tells the story of a girl and her mother who walk across the United States from Washington State to New York City for woman's rights and to raise money to save their farm in the 1800's. Throughout the book I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, and what it would all lead up to. It's also packed with imagery; the environments changing across the contin ...more
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
2.75 -- not quite a 3, but above a 2.5.

I thought the story itself was quite good and engaging, though some of the personal struggles overtook the story at hand. The pacing worked well enough, but the writing itself suffered a little. The diary format of the story worked, though the letter inclusion did get a little tiring. I could have appreciated a little more character development beyond the father issue, but I felt Clara and Helga were done well enough -- we knew they were strong women to ev
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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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