Sonia Levitin Tony Siaulys - Essay

Tony Siaulys

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

An historical event interlaced with a fictional account of what might have happened is a popular and advantageous way of creating interest in a subject for all readers but especially for younger ones. If done properly, this type of novel allows more familiarity with the characters and content than a footnoted academic work. The No-Return Trail is done properly, and its intended adolescent audience will not be disappointed. The novel is about a covered wagon expedition to California in 1841. The journey was far from glamorous; it was filled with a sense of urgency and decisiveness which the author conveys well. She spares the raw details yet makes it realistic enough for the adolescent reader. (pp. 230-31)

Being the most prominent character, [Nancy Kelsey] leads the reader through the excitement, hardships, and the final satisfaction at the journey's end. For the younger reader these can be memorable—Indians, buffalo stampedes, uncooperative weather, and improvised medical cures. Equally important, the characters demonstrate the importance of making decisions which involve the entire party if their goal is to be reached. That these decisions do not come easy permits the novel to be instructional as well as entertaining. The short bibliography at the end adds a certain credence to the story and gives interested youngsters direction for further reading. Finally, the novel is not a droll account of people, places, and things. More often than not, the chapters end on a pivotal situation, just begging the reader to go further—an important consideration when writing for adolescents. (p. 231)

Tony Siaulys, "Young People's Books: 'The No-Return Trail'," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1978 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 38, No. 7, October, 1978, pp. 230-31.