Friday, March 27, 2015

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner (time travel)


Meet Ranger! He's a time-traveling golden retriever who has a nose for trouble . . . and always saves the day!

Ranger has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog, but can't officially pass the test because he's always getting distracted by squirrels during exercises. One day, he finds a mysterious first aid kit in the garden and is transported to the year 1850, where he meets a young boy named Sam Abbott. Sam's family is migrating west on the Oregon Trail, and soon after Ranger arrives he helps the boy save his little sister. Ranger thinks his job is done, but the Oregon Trail can be dangerous, and the Abbotts need Ranger's help more than they realize.


Time travel has long been a staple of the science fiction/fantasy genre both for adults and for children.  But this is the first time I've read a book that focused on an animal time-traveling.  It creates an interesting conundrum for the animal since Ranger, a dog, can't explain to himself or to his new companions what happened and where he came from.  I liked the fact that Ranger's skills in tracking and finding are clearly explained by his search-and-rescue training.

The time travel elements are kept simple which is appropriate for a book for the 7-10 age group.  More sophisticated readers might desire more explanation but for young readers it's best not to get bogged down in details.  The book moves smoothly and quickly through the plot which will keep children turning pages. This new series I think will be a fun way to introduce young readers to just how interesting the past can be, in this case the pioneers who traveled across the plains to find a new life for themselves.  The author includes many of the dangers that these pioneers faced such as buffalo stampedes, dangerous river crossings, and disease (including death).  And yet the troubles Ranger and his adopted family face don't overwhelm the book.  And Ranger despite his new attachments never forgets Luke and his original home.

The book works well as a read-a-loud and would make for an excellent introduction to historical fiction while including a science fiction twist that will draw readers into the story.

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