North with de Anza

Written by Dorothy Ward Erskine
Review by Carol Anne Germain

This is a treasure! Even though it was written over four decades ago, the story holds well and will engage readers of all ages. Erskine selected a wonderful adventure about a Spanish expedition that receives little or no mention in children’s history books. Certainly, this tale provides a much needed multicultural aspect to ethnic explorations of the United States.

In the eighteenth century, most of California was only accessible via its waters. During the late 1770s, thirty families traveled thousands of miles overland from Mexico, under the guidance of Don Juan Bautista de Anza, to blaze a new trail and settle in northern California. This remarkable group trekked through some of the most difficult western territories, to build missions and a new life in the San Francisco area. On their expedition, they encountered rough terrain, Apache attacks, and other troublesome conditions, yet persevered because of their courage and bravery.

The story is about a young member of this expedition, twelve-year-old Pedro Peralta, a kind and brave boy who learns new lessons daily during this adventure. Erskine successfully brought reality to this tale by using resources produced by the late Dr. Herbert E. Bolton. This historian devoted his life to translating thirteen diaries written by the members of this treacherous journey.