Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Frontier Living, like author-illustrator Edwin Tunis’ earlier work Colonial Living (1957), describes the artifacts and conditions of daily living in the United States during an earlier era. Tunis sets the stage for Frontier Living with a brief introductory chapter on the earliest settlements along the eastern seaboard. From there, he moves generally west, sometimes swinging south or north, sometimes pausing to give more thoughtful consideration to a broader topic such as road and river travel. The chapter headings include “The Deepwater Frontier,” “The Piedmont,” “The Southern Valleys,” “The Great Salient,” “Road and River,” “The Old Northwest,” “The Cotton Frontier,” “Shrinking Distances,” “Beyond the Mississippi,” “Caravans to Santa Fe,” “The Fur Trade and the Mountain Men,” “The Bitter Road to Oregon,” “The Harried Saints,” “Alta California,” “El Dorado,” “Two Thousand Miles,” “The Cow Hunt and the Cowhand,” “The Sodbusters and the Cattle Drives,” and “The Run.” Each chapter is further divided into sections of varying length on topics such as food, hunting, and housekeeping. Some chapters also include an essay that establishes the historical framework for the surrounding material. All include meticulously rendered black-and-white illustrations, one or two to a page, most with captions. Some of the illustrations are maps.

In his foreword, Tunis suggests that he is working against a common assumption that the word “frontier” refers primarily to the settlement of the American West, and he states his intention of restoring a proper sense of proportion by “presenting conditions east of the Mississippi River in rather more detail than those west of it.” Some of the information about the physical details of living, such as houses and housekeeping, apply to the entire pioneer experience, so that the later chapters can focus more narrowly on what was unique about traveling the Oregon Trail or living in a Nebraska sod house. Although Frontier Living contains more straightforward history than Colonial Living, like its predecessor it includes many fine explanations of mechanical devices and craft processes.

Frontier Living provides a complete table of contents and an index. The index covers many of the illustrations as well as the text and distinguishes between the two with an asterisk after the page number for illustrations.