Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness Critical Essays

John Mason Brown


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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...

(The entire section is 482 words.)