Brown, Skila. To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party. Fiction. Candlewick, 10/2016. 275[+16]pp. $17.99. 978-0-7636-7811-1. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 7-12.
Brown’s (Caminar, 2014) latest novel in free verse is told from the point of view of Mary Ann Graves, eldest daughter of a family that was part of the Donner Party. The 1840s setting, journey, and events are told in a serious way that is most appropriate for older tweens and teens due to the horrifying nature of their starvation and cannibalism that occurred during this venture to California that went terribly wrong. Also, the free verse contains complex sentence structures, vocabulary, implied meanings, and depth of emotion. There is a map at the beginning of the book, and back matter includes an author’s note on research done, what occurred after they were rescued, and a list of those who were on the journey and who survived.
Penny Peck, San Jose State University, iSchool