Can a 12-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy and their pregnant mother get to Buffalo in time to save their boat and their family?
The Erie Canal. The Big Ditch. It stretched from Albany to Buffalo, over 360 miles long. In 1848, it carried passengers and cargo from one end of New York to the other on hundreds of barges pulled by mule teams that walked along the dirt trail by the canal's edge. Families spent their lives riding and walking those 360 miles over and over, first one way and then the other, earning a living as they carried whatever they could back and forth.
The Haggertys were just one of those families, and Maggie just one of the children that drove or rode those mules. She'd done it for years, her only friends the other canal families. But this trip was different-more important, and more frightening. Papa had bet far too much on his fight with Long Fingered John, and then lost. If they didn't make it to Buffalo in record time, they'd lose their bonus and their boat. The Betty was their only source of income. They wouldn't survive if they lost her. It would have been a hard trip even before Papa and Uncle Hen were jailed on a phony assault charge, and without the two men, it was all but impossible.
Suddenly Maggie's life wasn't just plodding along behind a team of mules, but a desperate race against time to save her family and her livedlihood. If they couldn't get to Buffalo in just a few days, that life and her family would fall apart. Maggie was only twelve — did she have the grit and determination to make it in time?
This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart.