Sam Abbot and his family are getting ready to set out on the Oregon Trail, but Sam isn't very excited, since they've had to leave their old dog, Scout behind. Little does he know he will soon find a new friend...fast-forward to the present and Ranger, a friendly golden retriever, is digging in the yard. He's smart and obedient, but failed out of search-and-rescue training because of his lack of focus. But when Ranger digs up a mysterious tin box and gets transported back to the Oregon Trail, his training will come in useful. He misses his family and is confused by the strange place he finds himself, but he quickly becomes part of Sam's wagon train and helps them travel the Oregon trail through dangerous rivers, illness, and many other adventures until they reach their destination and Ranger finds his way back home.
At 144 pages, this is the perfect length for kids who are ready to start moving on from beginning chapters. The story doesn't gloss over the dangers and tragedies of the trail and there is death, disease, and other perils, but they're presented in a way that focuses on the families and their courage, rather than the horrors they endure. The story is interesting and exciting without being sensationalized and Ranger makes a good narrator of events, as well as adding his own perspective.
An author's note at the end fills in more about the historical context and includes lots of information, quotes, sources, and suggestions for further reading.
Verdict: I'm really pleased with this new series - it's a perfect choice for kids who are interested in history and animals and will be an easy sell to fans of the I Survived series. I'm using it in my book club and I think the kids will really love it. Highly recommended.
ISBN: 9780545639156; Published January 2015 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015; Purchased for the library