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For Readers Age approx. 14+
Grades 10+

Nan's Journey - Review
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Littau, Elaine. (2007) Nan’s Journey. OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1602478329 . Author recommends age 13+. Litland recommends age 15+.

Publisher's Summary:

 Desperate and bleeding fifteen year old Nan escaped from an abusive home with her five-year-old brother in tow. In her character driven novel, Nan’s Journey, author Elaine Littau introduces intriguing characters with complex challenges. Nan and Elmer find their world spinning out of control as their situation grows from bad to worse. When Fred Young, a disgruntled preacher-turned mountain man, reaches out to help them; he finds hope renewed in his own life. This fast paced page turner is part romance/part suspense. Readers of any age will enjoy, Nan’s Journey, which is set in the 1800’s yet speaks to issues many people face today


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

Nan exemplifies the love of an older sister to a younger brother. It is common in stories to see the older sibling take care of the younger when they are alone to battle the world together, but this too often is mere desperation of having no one else to trust. Contrary to that, we see Nan’s constant attention to Elmer, with Elmer returning that love through obedience and helpfulness.  Throughout the story, characters maintain open and honest communications with one another which alleviates pain and confusion.  

Honor is also a strong theme throughout the story. It is particularly a part of Fred’s character, who embodies the “code” of a gentleman from that time period.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

The portrayal of authority figures is exemplary. Throughout the story, key characters exhibit unwavering strength in doing the right thing. As such, there is clear hierarchy between adult and child, and with it clear examples of good parenting, keen friendship (such as the doctor’s recurring role), necessary to building trust.

Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

Nan has an unbending loyalty to her birth family (mama and pa) and, as such, to her brother Elmer. She is worried Elmer could die and he is the last tie she has to her full family.  Later, Fred shows loyalty to his new family with Nan, Teddy and Elmer pledging to spend time with them rather than being on the road with revivals.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”

The story is centered on overcoming severe instances of evil acts in one’s life. Nan experiences many events, any one of which might destroy her for life. Yet the impact of good parenting upon her as a youth plays out in her perseverance to seek normalcy and completeness, which she ultimately finds in a family centered in God.  At each instance of suffering, we see good people come forth who bring her out of it.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

Although the vocabulary is not quite true to the time period for a historical fiction, its descriptors help us to feel both the physical and emotional pain suffered by Nan. It is centered in the beautiful Colorado Rockies, occasionally touched upon.

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

By chapter 11 Nan is brutally raped, beaten, wrapped naked in blanket with rope tied around her barefoot and taken as the property of the moutainmen who kidnap her. The story handles this with appropriate language and no unnecessary dwelling upon the details of the act itself. However, it is a powerful scene and remains a central focus for most of the story.  Some other violence occurs, such as a dog beaten to death. Families with younger teens will need to decide on the appropriateness of the storyline within their Family Do-Re-Mi’s.

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   

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