Book Review: The Jumping-Off Place by Marian Hurd McNeely


 When their Uncle Jim dies, leaving Becky, Dick, Phil and Joan Linville orphans, the only thing they have left is the land in Dakota Territory their uncle had claimed and his written instructions to lead them. Leaving their town in the east, the siblings, guided by Becky’s mothering instincts and Dick’s growing strength, set off to “prove” the land by living on it and improving it for fourteen months. When they arrive in Tripp County and to the home their uncle has left them, they are enamored by the beauty of the prairie. Things go well at first as they set to planting a garden, making a home in the barn and getting to know their neighbors. Soon however challenges begin to mount up.  Another family who has also laid claim to their land, squatting in a makeshift shack, begins to make trouble for the young settlers. A desperate drought sets in, destroying their crops and much of the food they had hoped to put up for winter. Life becomes a struggle to survive but with a little luck, a lot of determination and the kindness of neighbors, the Linvilles not only survive, they begin to thrive.


If you like the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ll love this book. Written three years before the first Little House story, The Jumping-Off Place by Marian Hurd McNeely is an adventurous and touching story of determination, grit and the kindness of good neighbors. The children are likable and refreshing as they mature and grow. The struggles they face – mean spirited and cruel squatters, the stone cold harshness of prairie weather and their own assailing doubts – ring true to the real life biographies of those early settlers making this a masterfully written piece of historic fiction. The story will leave you rooting for the Linville kids and hoping they will succeed.  The Jumping-Off Place is a great piece of historic fiction set in the last days of the settling of the prairie in the early 1900’s.  

  • Ages: 12 – 99
  • Awards: Newbery Honor Book (1930)
  • Pages: 319
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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