Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

John Mason Brown’s Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness is a fancifully illustrated biography that serves young readers as a guide to the remarkable, dangerous frontier life led by one of the most lauded of all American pioneers: the trailblazer and Indian fighter Daniel Boone. This tale relates the exploits of one restless man who took his kinspeople and a handful of North Carolina mountain neighbors to the fledgling United States’ own version of the biblical Promised Land: Kentucky and the lands in the West. The action in Daniel Boone begins with Boone’s horrendous experience as a wagon driver for British general Edward Braddock in 1755, when the latter sought to drive Native American and French forces from Fort Duquesne at the mouth of the Ohio River. Unfortunately, as Boone discovered, the general knew little of and cared nothing for frontier fighting, thus causing the rout of his army by the French. The horror of some Native American tactics, especially the scalping of the dead, stayed with Boone for the rest of his life.

Brown chooses not to start his story at the very beginning of Boone’s life because the drama of Fort Duquesne captures young readers’ attention and introduces the subject of the painful journey west in a compelling way. This rout, which taught Boone volumes about how not to fight Native Americans, serves as Brown’s point of departure for his tale about how Boone, out of an intense restlessness, a fear of the encroachment of civilization, and a born explorer’s need to discover new lands, became the key to an entire nation’s westward expansion.

Brown tells the reader about Boone’s home in the mountain enclaves of North Carolina, where his forebears had pioneered the land decades before. Boone lived in the midst of a natural paradise of mountains, streams, and virgin timber filled with game. Deftly, Brown then portrays civilization...

(The entire section is 786 words.)