Brown dedicates his book to his Kentucky-born and-bred grandfather, John Mason Brown, an authority on the early days of the Kentucky settlement. His preface states his indebtedness to that grandfather’s “Oration Delivered on the Occasion of the Centennial Commemoration of the Battle of Blue Licks.” Thus, the author establishes his own personal link with the first white Kentuckians and his desire to make the Boone saga come alive for young readers.
Brown succeeds as a historical novelist because of his evident love for his subject matter, a love made clear in his frontispiece, a quotation from Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét’s A Book of Americans (1933): “When Daniel Boone goes by at night/ The Phantom deer arise/ And all lost, wild America/ Is burning in their eyes.” Readers find themselves caught up by the events and their historical importance, as well as by Brown’s use of detail to describe everything from backroad dust to the open canebrakes and meadows of an unexplored Kentucky. In fact, Brown has an ability to conjure a lost world, making it real for young people: To read Daniel Boone is to see an incredible panorama of wild lands that will never be seen again, wonderful vistas forever marred by pioneers traveling westward on Boone’s Wilderness Road.
Although accessible and interesting to adult readers, Daniel Boone is a young person’s book, addressing their need for suspense. Readers find...
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For decades, Brown’s study of Boone and the trek westward has been highly regarded by teachers, librarians, and students as a young adult classic. The book illuminates not only an important American life but also the crucial period during which people living on the Atlantic seaboard began to move west into Native American territory and into the chronicles of great historical events.
When Daniel Boone was written in 1952, many Americans were obsessed with recapturing a sense of the frontier experience, and this study fit in well with the times. It has retained its appeal, though some readers may find that Native Americans are too often portrayed as hateful savages of limited culture who seek to destroy clever, civilized white settlers. There is some of this stereotyping in Daniel Boone, but Brown tries to be evenhanded and usually succeeds.
Brown is not a propagandist, but a perceptive biographer trying to create the historical Daniel Boone, a man who comes close to perfection in the author’s mind. Given the wondrous adventures that Boone managed to fit into one lifetime, it is not surprising that he is shown to be something of a superhero. This book is a reliable, imaginatively written account of his life that remains a valuable resource for the young reader.