Monday, December 5, 2011

The Water Seeker

Title: The Water Seeker
Category: Historical
Grades: 5-10
Author: Kimberly Willis Holt
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books
Date: 2010
Pages: 305

Amos’s mother died giving birth to him, and his father, a dowser, has been away most of his life.  When his aunt and the only mother he’s ever known dies of the pox, Amos’s life becomes unstable as he is shuffled from one family to another.  Finally his father, remarried to an Indian woman, prepares to take Amos on the Oregon Trail along with a band of pioneers ready to make a new life for themselves in the West. Along the way, Amos falls hard for the pretty minister’s daughter, Jubilee.  As the scarred and ugly Gwendolyn looks on with envy, Amos attempts without success to court Jubilee while navigating the hazards of the Trail.  Eventually, Amos must make some difficult decisions, both about the Trail and about love in this touching coming-of-age novel.

The Water Seeker is not the novel most readers will expect.  The fantastical gift of dowsing plays only a minor role, making this novel more readily classified as historical fiction than fantasy.  Most of the story focuses on Amos’s growing years and coming of age on the Oregon Trail.  Young teens will empathize with Amos’s love and eventual loss of the unobtainable Jubilee, and Holt handles his growing and more subtle love for Gwendolyn, in spite of her physical appearance, with tact and grace. Readers of books like Worth and Avi’s The Barn will grow naturally into this story, but Amos’s romance is contemporary enough to appeal to a broad range of readers.  A story with merit and substance, Water Seeker will be a great addition to classrooms and libraries.


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