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About The Book

Westward Ho!
Congress has ruled that settlers in Kansas Territory will decide whether Kansas will enter the Union as a free or a slave state. Charlie Keller's papa is an abolitionist, and he's moving the family to Kansas so he can cast his vote for freedom.
Papa and Momma, big sister Ida Jane, even baby Sophie, seem excited about being pioneers -- but not Charlie. Why couldn't they stay back home in Massachusetts with Grandpa and with Charlie's beloved old dog, Danny, who is too old to make the trip? Turning the wild Kansas prairie into a farm is hard work, filled with worries and danger. Will Kansas ever feel like home to Charlie?

Reading Group Guide

This is the first book of a trilogy telling the story of eight-year-old Charlie Keller and his abolitionist family as they move to the Kansas Territory in 1855. This book covers the initial trip by railroad, steamboat, and wagon to a plot of prairie near Lawrence.
Frontier life; Kansas; Family
• What would it mean to leave everything you know and go to a new place? What would you miss the most? What would you want to find in your new home?
• What is an abolitionist? How could moving to the new territory support this belief? What else might an abolitionist do to support their cause?
• What did Charlie learn during the trip to Kansas that he didn't know before?
• Why is a prairie fire so dangerous? How did starting another fire help stop the prairie fire? What would be others ways of fighting a prairie fire?
• Look at an historic map of the United States and a current map of the United States to trace Charlie's journey to Kansas. If you were moving from Massachusetts to Kansas now, how much of your journey would be similar to Charlie's and how much would be different?
• Charlie started a nature journal to record the insects, birds, flowers, and animals he saw in Kansas in 1855. Start your own journal to record the wildlife and plants that you see in Kansas now.
• Make a model of Charlie's new home in Kansas. Include Spring Creek, the new cabin his father is building, as well as the prairie and timber surrounding the new home and other details from the story.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Arlene Wiler
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Authors

Photo Credit:

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of numerous award-winning children's books, including Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, winner of the International Literacy Association Award; Girl Wonder, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; and Apples to Oregon, a Junior Library Guild Selection. She received the 2003 Washington State Book Award for Under the Quilt of Night. She lives in Oregon. Visit her online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (August 10, 2010)
  • Length: 80 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442421448
  • Ages: 6 - 9

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Awards and Honors

  • William Allen White Children's Book Award (KS)

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books in this series: Prairie Skies