Hope's Path to Glory: The Story of a Family's Journey on the Overland Trail

Hope's Path to Glory: The Story of a Family's Journey on the Overland Trail
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Release Date
February 07, 2023
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From the author of Eliza’s Freedom Road and Calico Girl comes a historical middle grade adventure about an enslaved girl’s journey on the Overland Trail to California during the Gold Rush, and how she took the chance to fight for freedom.

In Alexandria, Virginia, in the mid-19th century, a slave-owning family is facing financial trouble. The eldest son, Jason, thinks going to California to mine for gold might be the best way to protect his father’s legacy. He’ll need a cook, a laundress, and a hostler for the journey, and one of them is twelve-year-old Clementine, whose mother calls her Hope.

From Independence, Missouri—the “Gateway to the West”—she and the others join a wagon train on the Emigrant Overland Trail. But what Jason didn’t consider is taking the three enslaved people west will give them an opportunity to free themselves—manifesting their destiny.

Editor review

1 review
New look at Westward Expansion
Overall rating
Writing Style
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Hope (who was named Clementine by the woman who has enslaved her family) is somewhat fortunate to belong to the Barnetts. She is still with her mother and father, and has an indoor job, training to be a lady's maid for Elizabeth Barnett, who has even taught Hope to read and write. Things are tough on the farm now that Elizabeth's seafaring husband has died and she has remarried his brother, who is not taking good care of the farm. To bring in some money, he has decided to sell Hope's family, but is willing to let them be together. However, the oldest son, Jason, has decided to travel out to the California gold fields in 1849, and says he needs help along the way. Soon, Hope and her mother and father are packing a wagon and making their way across the US via the Overland Trail. They are as prepared as they can be, and have been fortunate along the way, stocking their wagon and finding decent oxen to pull it. They are with a fairly prepared wagon train, and aside from a few catastrophes (like oxen being killed by lightning, the elderly and small children taking ill and dying, and Jason becoming ill with cholera for a bit), are quite fortunate. Hope has read the poetry of Phyllis Wheatley, since Elizabeth Barnett gave her one of the poet's books, and has thought about the status of enslaved people quite a bit when back in Virginia. Once the family reaches California, will they be able to carve out a life of freedom for themselves?
Good Points
This felt a lot like a book in the turn of the millenium Scholastic series, Dear America. Hope keeps a diary, and details not only what life is like in Virginia, but all along the Overland Trail as well. There are lots of details about the food stores necessary to get a group across the US and safely to California, and even though I have read a lot on this topic, I learned several things! It makes sense that the flour was heat treated so it didn't spoil, and I hadn't known about the alkaline water that killed cattle. I feel like I would be much better prepared to play Oregon Trail now!

Even though I loved Carr's Children of the Covered Wagon (1934) when I was young, there are not a lot of newer titles about Westward Expansion. Philbrick's Stay Alive does cover the disastrous Donner Party, which is mentioned in Hope's Path, but I wouldn't mind seeing more titles. It was definitely interesting to follow the exploits of Black members of a pioneer group, and while there were several instances when they met Native Americans, there's not too much discussion about the problems that the pioneers caused.

I was briefly confused; the cover is so similar to Daley's If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation During the Great Depression that I thougth this was another of Jolly Fish Press' I Am America series. Even the format is somewhat similar, and there's a nice time line of Westward Expansion events at the end of the book, and a fantastic source list. Definitely hand this to fans of either the Dear America or I Am America series, or readers who enjoyed Nolen's Eliza's Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary (2017).
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