Age Group: Ages 10 and older
Plot: Using the 1933 Tilamook Burn as a backdrop for this coming of age story, author Linda Crew casts Estoria “Storie,” the daughter of a logger, at the awkward age of 13. Amid the brawn, swagger, and austerity of a Depression-era logging camp, Estoria transforms from child to young woman in halting steps. Her first tentative steps include noticing that her father’s logging boots are, so to speak, made of clay, and realizing that her future will be truncated by her soon-to-end eighth-grade education. She realizes that she wants to go to college and that future means she will have to leave the mountains and live with her grandmother in town. Against this backdrop, a fire begins on the horizon under tinderbox conditions. As the men are sent to put out the fire, the women and children remain in the camp. When it is obvious that this fire cannot be contained and could possibly burn to the Pacific Ocean, the logging camp foreman abandons the men (and the woman and children) and evacuates his family. The loggers’ wives complacently allow this. Not Storie! Storie commandeers a flatcar and sets off down the mountain to find the men.
Review: This book captures all the awkwardness of a young girl making the transition from overalls to dresses, to sensing men’s stares for the first time, and charting her own future, even if it means viewing her father through new eyes. Against the background of a 1933 mercury-busting summer, the book spotlights 11 days in the life of Storie, the 13-year-old daughter of an Oregon logger. The book captures the twang, the dust, and boredom of a logging camp, and the sexism that limited girls’ futures to, at best, becoming a teacher—until they married, that is. Storie chafes, longs to go to high school and college. The interactions between Storie and her mother, Storie and her father, and mother and father, illustrate the gender differences at the beginning of the last century. The author activates all the senses and one can feel, hear, and taste the aromas of a logging camp. Each chapter, with an opening map, chronicles the fire’ advance. With each chapter, Storie’s frustration builds with her family’s conformity and unwillingness to question logging life. Her frustration climaxes when the logging camp foreman begins to evacuate his family and leave the logging families and loggers, who are in the forest futile fighting the fire. Young girls will love this story, but I am not sure if this story will resonate with boys.