About the Author
Bonnie Pryor thoroughly researched important periods of American history for each of her American Adventures. For Luke on the High Seas, she delved into seafaring in the nineteenth century so that the details of Luke Reed's journey would be accurate. She lives in Gambier, Ohio. In Her Own Words...
"I grew up in Spokane, Washington, the middle child in a family of three girls. Books were a part of my life from as far back as I can remember. I was often in trouble for reading at the wrong time. I would be caught reading under the dining room table when I was supposed to be dusting, or reading under the covers by flashlight late at night-even hiding a novel inside my textbooks at school.
"Not everyone thought I read too much. I remember a school librarian who saved all the new books for me to read first, and on several occasions she gave me presents of books. Perhaps she felt she should because I had read every single thing in her library!
"I was very shy, and, like Robert in The Plum Tree War, I spent a lot of my time hanging from my knees from a favorite plum tree, telling myself stories. Of course since I was raised in the West these stories were usually about wild horses and cowboys, and I was always the heroine who came to the rescue. The stories were long and involved, sometimes going on for days. I was always impatient to get to my tree each day so I could find out what was going to happen next, but I was too lazy to write the stories down.
"I think everyone expected me to become a writer, but it took me twenty years and a gentle nudge from my husband, Robert, to build up the courage to try. In the meantime I moved to Ohio, worked at a variety of jobs, and raised a family. I have four grown children, eight grandchildren, and two daughters still at home-Jenny and Chrissy. Many of my books are loosely based upon incidents in my children's lives, and they often appear as characters, in personality if not by name.
"My family recently moved to the country. When I'm not writing and visiting schools, we're busy building barns and fences and laying out flower beds. In addition, we all take part in caring for the four newcomers to our home: three horses and a bunny!"
Bert Dodson is the well-known illustrator of many books for young readers about the American past, most recently Grandpa Was a Cowboy, by Silky Sullivan (Orchard Books), and Buffalo Thunder, by Patricia Wittman (Marshall Cavendish).He lives in Bradford, Vermont.
Read an Excerpt
From his perch in the wagon, Thomas Bowden stared anxiously into the woods on both sides of the road. There were too many places where an Indian or a Tory soldier could hide, for his liking. They had been traveling all day. The road was little better than a weedy path as it wound through the Pennsylvania countryside toward the city of Philadelphia. It was so deeply rutted and pitted with holes that the wagon bounced and rocked until every bone in Thomas's body ached. in protest.
His mother sat next to Mr. Peters, holding his baby brother, Ben.The rest of the wagon, except for the small space boarded off for Thomas and his sister, Emma, was piled high with smelly cabbages. When the wagon bounced over especially hard bumps, a few of the cabbages would fly off the back.
Mr. Peters would not stop to pick the cabbages up. Thomas knew he, too, was worried about a sudden attack. He drove the horses at a steady pace. Every now and then, he reached down and patted the musket on the seat beside him as though to reassure himself it was still there if he needed it.
"I wish we had something to read," Emma said. Thomas thought of all the wonderful books that had been destroyed when Mr. Hailey's house was burned down by the Tories. Mr. Hailey had been a good neighbor. Thomas sighed. With all this bouncing, it would be impossible to read anyway.
Thomas grabbed for a cabbage as it flew off the pile and missed. He watched it roll down the road. "It looks like we're leaving a trail of cabbages," he said wearily.
Emma almost smiled. "Wouldn't it be nice if Father was following the trail and found us?" she said.
Thomas nodded at hisyounger sister. Six months before, Mr. Bowden had joined the Continental army to fight the British with General George Washington. Their mother was left to manage the family homestead in frontier Pennsylvania. Thomas and Emma knew that for months the army had been camped outside Philadelphia while the British redcoats occupied the town. Mr. Bowden had thought that his family would be safe so far from the British soldiers. Then the Tories, who sided with the British, had joined with the powerful Iroquois Nation to attack scores of small frontier settlements.
"It isn't fair," Emma said crossly. "Here we are heading to Philadelphia, and Father is not there anymore."
"I wish we knew where Father is," Thomas said. "Sam Tucker said our soldiers were chasing the British all the way to New York. He said there was some fighting in New Jersey."in spite of the worry over their father, Thomas smiled at the thought of Sam Tucker. He and his wife had helped the Bowdens when they needed it most. Sam often pretended to be a harmless old woodsman. It was safer to travel that way when he carried messages to General Washington.
"How much longer do you think it will be before Father can return home?" Emma asked.
Thomas shrugged. "As soon as the redcoats go back to England and let us have our freedom." He wished he felt as confident as he sounded. He tried to imagine his father's sorrow when he discovered that they no longer had a home.
Just a few weeks before, their home had been a cabin in the beautiful Wyoming Valley along the Susquehanna River. Now it was gone, burned in the massacre that had killed many of their neighbors.
Thomas knew that the patriots had not always been kind to the Tories. Still, it was difficult to understand how the Tories could have murdered their fellow countrymen. After the fighting that had driven the Bowdens out of their home, the Tory army had stood by while the few surviving soldiers were tortured by the Iroquois.The Bowdens had escaped with their lives only by crossing a swamp and walking over the thickly forested Pocono Mountains. Except for a few coins their mother had sewed in her dress and Ben's blanket, they had lost everything.
Walking across the mountains, Thomas had thought only of survival and easing his terrible hunger. When they had finally arrived at the little settlement called Stroudsburg, the fear had given way to anger. Before the massacre, the world had been a good place, an interesting place. His mother had often teased him about his curiosity. Now all he could feel was hate. He agreed with the men who wanted to kill every Indian and Tory.
He knew his mother was concerned about him. He saw her worried looks when she thought he didn't see. For her sake, he tried to hide his feelings, but his anger made him feel like his heart had turned to stone.
It was Sam Tucker who had helped them get to Stroudsburg. The people there had been kind. They had fed and cared for the Bowdens and the other survivors who had crossed the mountains. Some people had stayed, hoping to return to whatever was left of their homes. Mrs. Bowden, however, was determined to go to Philadelphia and live with her sister Rachel until Mr. Bowden found them. She had hired Mr.Peters and his wagon in Stroudsburg. He hadn't bothered to tell her that he was also bringing a load of cabbages to sell in the city.
"Ouch!" Emma yelled. The wagon had hit such a deep rut that she and Thomas were bounced up in the air and down again with a bone-rattling bump. Emma rubbed her hip ruefully."Maybe walking to Philadelphia would have been easier."Old Nobbin, their big black dog, who had faithfully followed them across the mountains, looked up as if to say he agreed with Emma, but Thomas shook his head."I've had enough walking." Peering ahead, he saw two stone pillars and a gate across the crude road.