In 1910, the close-knit Martin family moves to Mingo, Colorado as homesteaders. All they have to do is live on the parcel of 320 acres and farm it for five years, and it will be theirs—for free. But dry farming in Colorado is a lot different from farming in Iowa. Twelve-year-old Belle, along with her six siblings and mother and father, face unexpected hardships, adversity, and sorrows. The Martins are helped by their neighbors, the closest of whom is a woman on her own, all of whom understand how hard it is to scratch a life from dry land. Along with the hard work do come moments of joy—parties, holidays, and plans for college and the future.
Dallas does an excellent job of describing what life was like for the early homesteaders. The reader is there with them, living in their “soddy” and feeling the bitter wind as it sweeps across the land. The story, however, is fairly predictable, and the characters are one-dimensional; happy, kind, and generous. None of the usual squabbles or jealousies exist within even the closest of families. The characters struggle to survive against the elements, but without any character growth. The main character is just as sweet and caring at the end as she was at the beginning. Still, the account of the hardscrabble life on the frontier will interest middle-grade readers who are fans of the Little House on the Prairie series.